As consul general of Canada in Kansas, I have traveled across the Sunflower State engaging with businesses, officials and everyday people. I’ve enjoyed a craft beer in Emporia, toured the museum of the Wizard of Oz in Wamego and tasted one of the finest steaks of my life in Wichita. I say it often: Kansas is a beautiful state, home to generous and welcoming people. I love coming here.
This is why it concerns me that we find ourselves where we are today.
On May 31, the Trump administration announced a decision to impose tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel, under the pretext of a national security provision. And over the weekend, the president ratcheted up the language.
This is both perplexing and hurtful to Canadians, as well as to many Kansans. The idea that Canada could be considered a national security threat to the U.S. is absurd. No nation has been more committed to U.S. security than Canada.
The Canadian government has announced reciprocal tariffs on U.S. steel, aluminum, agricultural, household and other products in response, effective July 1. This is not an action Canada took lightly, but when faced with punitive U.S. tariffs, our government had no choice.
Tariffs, counter-tariffs and escalating rhetoric and actions are the exact opposite path of what Canada believes is best for our two great nations. Who knows where this will lead? The stakes are very high.
A quick look at the trade numbers shows that the United States currently enjoys a $2 billion surplus in steel trade with Canada, and that Canada buys a full half of all U.S. steel exports. Our governments work cooperatively to help protect North American markets. Tariffs are counterproductive to these efforts, and the real-world effects will be to harm consumers and workers alike through raised costs and disrupted supply chains. Thousands more American jobs will be lost than saved. Kansas will not be able to escape these consequences.
Canada is the largest buyer of exports from Kansas, and it should be noted that the state enjoyed a $1 billion surplus in the trade of goods with Canada last year. In 2017, trade and investment with Canada supported 84,100 Kansas jobs. This relationship is reciprocal and beneficial for both sides. Aluminum and steel imports make their way into many Kansas exports, from aircraft to automobiles. Even if these tariffs don’t affect you now, they very well could soon.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Should the U.S. lift its tariffs in Canada, Canada will immediately lift its counter-tariffs. We understand that a trade war is a battle where all sides lose.
Trade between Canada and the U.S. is integrated, fair and balanced. Over the past 24 years, we have become two of the most integrated economies in the world, thanks to that other hot issue: NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA underpins a continental trading relationship that is a model for the world, supporting growth, innovation and well-paying jobs.
Many voices I have heard want to connect these tariffs to the negotiations to modernize NAFTA. It is Canada’s firm position that these two issues are separate, and that tariffs are not a productive negotiating tactic with one’s top defense ally and economic partner. Canada seeks to continue that partnership, working together to jointly address the bad-faith state actors who try to undermine industries on both sides of our border. Canada remains now and always ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with her ally, partner and friend: the United States.
I remain optimistic that with the support and voices of our partners in Kansas and across the U.S., common economic sense will prevail and our mutual prosperity will only grow.
Consul General Stéphane Lessard is the Canadian federal government’s representative in the U.S. Mountain West and Kansas, based in Denver.