Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton attends a business luncheon in Montreal, Wednesday, November 16, 2016. MacNaughton says he believes NAFTA negotiators can reach an agreement in principle by the end of March. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum could be gone in weeks, ambassador says

Canada’s ambassador to the United States showing certainty in the tariff issue

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says he believes punishing American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum could be gone in a matter of weeks.

David MacNaughton is saying little else about the source of his optimism beyond what he considers to be a growing understanding south of the border that the tariffs, imposed last summer and still in place despite a new North American trade deal, are doing more harm than good.

MacNaughton made the comments in Washington during a day-long free-trade forum hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.

He was coy about what may have changed, although there have been some significant developments on the U.S. political front, including President Donald Trump’s decision last week to declare a national emergency at the Mexico-U.S. border.

That move, designed to circumvent Congress in the president’s efforts to secure billions in funding for his border wall, effectively ended an ongoing standoff between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill that had been consuming a lot of oxygen in Washington.

MacNaughton also put to rest another persistent question in Ottawa, describing as “fake news” the speculation that he might be poised to replace Gerald Butts as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary.

He’s also confident that U.S. lawmakers will eventually ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, although when remains an open question.

On the issue of tariffs, however MacNaughton is sounding more bullish than he has in a while.

“I think that we’ll get there in the next few weeks,” he said.

READ MORE: 5 of the weirdest items affected by the Canada-U.S. trade war

READ MORE: U.S. to slap steel and aluminium tariffs on Canada, Mexico

“It is obviously difficult to predict accurately exactly what is going to happen here — there are many moving parts, there are other distractions — but I’m confident that we’re going to get there in the next few weeks.”

MacNaughton has been predicting a quick resolution to the tariff issue for a while. But there was a certainty in his comments Thursday that hasn’t been there much of late, especially when the topic came up during a panel discussion alongside Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

“I think we’re going to resolve it in a positive way in the next short while,” he said. “I don’t want to go into great detail, but I think we’re going to resolve this matter soon … even governments end up doing the right thing eventually.”

MacNaughton and Garneau were just two of the past and present lawmakers, diplomats and business leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico gathered in Washington to explore when Congress might get around to debating the merits of the USMCA.

WATCH: Americans #ThankCanada as tariff spat continues

Trump was, of course, top of mind for many. Former New York congressman Joe Crowley, who lost his nomination last year to rising Democrat star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, blamed the president for having ”weaponized” the issue of trade, a tactic that has alienated two of America’s most important allies.

Gordon Giffin and Jim Blanchard, two former U.S. ambassadors to Canada, shared a panel with former Canadian envoy Gary Doer, all three of whom called on the White House to lift its tariffs on steel and aluminum. They also agreed the new trade deal can’t be passed until those tariffs are lifted.

Tariffs aside, a number of Democrats and Republicans say they won’t vote for NAFTA 2.0 in its current form.

Democrats say the agreement lacks labour and environmental enforcement, and some don’t like its extended drug patent protections. U.S. officials say those concerns will have to be dealt with in so-called side letters or the bill Congress votes on to enact the deal.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Semiahmoo advances to B.C. peewee hockey final against Burnaby Winter Club

Ravens to square off against only team to defeat them during provincial tournament

Surrey RCMP hunt for robbery suspect after woman threatened while using ATM

Police say a man demanded a woman withdraw money from her account while threatening her with a weapon

SOCCER: A Surrey coach recalls Alphonso Davies’ rise, days after his first goal for Bayern Munich

Injury may prevent the budding star, 18, from playing for Team Canada in Vancouver on Sunday

Tory MPs chant ‘cover up’ during federal budget delivery

Liberal government’s fourth budget delivered in House of Commons Tuesday, but nobody could hear it

Former South Surrey boxer relishing role on Riverdale

Peninsula resident Darcy Hinds has recurring role on popular CW series

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Fraser Health under fire again for taxiing homeless man from Langley to Hope

Patient sent to Hope shelter because a spot in the man’s home community couldn’t be located

B.C. launches immunization program at schools to stamp out measles resurgence

Vaccination records to be checked at B.C. schools next fall

Most Read

l -->