Canada rejects security claims behind proposed US auto tariffs

Ottawa (AFP) –


Canada rejected Thursday a US proposal to slap steep tariffs on car imports over American national security concerns.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters it was "absurd" to suggest that Canadian car imports threaten US national security, noting that most motor vehicles assembled in Canada are manufactured by US car companies and include US parts.

American Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday said he had initiated an investigation into whether auto imports were "weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security."

The Wall Street Journal reported that US President Donald Trump was seeking vehicle import tariffs as high as 25 percent.

Trump tweeted there was "big news coming soon for our great American autoworkers," while blaming Canada and Mexico for being "difficult" in talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade in automobiles and parts remains a sticking point in the NAFTA negotiations, with Trump demanding an increased share of vehicle manufacturing in the United States.

"That Canada could pose any kind of security threat to the United States is inconceivable," Freeland's spokesman Adam Austen told AFP.

"Canada and the United States have the greatest economic and security partnership of any two countries in the world."

Austen noted that the two nations are "staunch allies" in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and on border security matters.

According to the latest trade data, Canadian imports of motor vehicles and parts rose 12 percent in March to Can$9.2 billion ($7.1 billion US) while exports fell five percent to Can$7.9 billion.

Most of Canada's trade in passenger cars and light trucks as well as auto parts is with the United States, although March saw an uptick in motor vehicle imports from Germany.