WASHINGTON — Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met with US senators Wednesday aiming to cool down a fiery trade row over "absurd" American tariffs that has sent ties between the longtime allies plunging.
Freeland huddled behind closed doors with Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker and other senators on the committee eager to repair the fraying relationship after President Donald Trump cited national security interests for slapping punitive tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Invoking national security -- under Section 232 of a US trade law -- as a reason for the tariffs "is frankly absurd," Freeland told reporters after the hour-long meeting.
"I think Americans understand it’s simply not the case," she said, stressing the deep friendship between two nations that share the world’s longest peaceful border.
Freeland has visited Washington often in recent weeks as Canada, the US and Mexico engage in negotiations over modernising NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But Trump’s announced tariffs, and bald faced attacks against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the G7 summit, have stunned Canada.
The neighbor to the north is now on track to impose what Freeland described as "measured, dollar-for-dollar retaliation" tariffs on US goods beginning July 1.
Freeland would not say what steps Ottawa wants the US Congress to take, but she was clear about Canada’s demand on the Trump administration.
"The US has to remove these unfair illegal tariffs from Canada, and from its allies," she said.
"We really are confident that at the end of the day, common sense will prevail."
She stopped short of saying whether any US lawmakers apologised for Trump’s trade actions, adding that Canadians "really value our relationship with the United States."
The Republican Corker has criticised Trump for attacking a vital ally, and lashed out at leaders in his own party for refusing to schedule a vote on his measure to let Congress approve or reject any tariffs imposed by the US president.
A frustrated Corker said after the meeting it was clear "we’ve damaged relations" with Canada.
"I don’t know of any senator that I know of on the Republican side that has not expressed concerns to the president both about using 232 but also just the random nature of how this has all been carried out."
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said he hoped Freeland would return home and share with Canadians "that the view of the president is not the view of all the American people" or a majority of senators.
Freeland said she will speak on Thursday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with whom she met on the sidelines of last weekend’s G7 summit. — AFP