One of the United States’ former envoys to Canada says that the U.S. decision to reimpose tariffs on Canadian aluminum is a case of President Donald Trump posturing ahead of the approaching November presidential election.

“This is a complete distraction,” former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman told BNN Bloomberg in an interview shortly after Trump’s announcement Thursday. “It is so unfortunate. It is a political stunt and I’m sorry to Canada that once again you’re bearing the brunt of our failed leadership.”

Trump said that he signed a proclamation that will put back in place the 10-per-cent tariffs on raw aluminum imports from Canada. Canada’s federal government vowed to retaliate Thursday evening.

Heyman, who served as ambassador from 2014 until the end of former president Barack Obama’s tenure in January of 2017, has been openly critical of Trump’s tariff tactics in the past and appeared on BNN Bloomberg in front of a placard promoting former vice-president and presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden’s 2020 run for office. Heyman painted a grim picture of Trump’s present political standing south of the border.

“I interpret it as a president who’s in deep trouble politically,” Heyman said. “He’s within 90 days of his potential re-election knowing he’s well behind in the polls. We have 158,000 people who have died as a result of a mishandled pandemic. We have millions out of work that are now in jeopardy of maybe not even receiving supplemental compensation from this Congressional negotiation.”


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    Speaking at a manufacturing plant in Clyde, Oh., Trump said that Canadian aluminum producers were breaking their commitments outlined in the new North American free trade deal and that Canada was “taking advantage” of the U.S. on trade on its metals and dairy practices.

    The office of U.S. trade representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said in a statement that Canadian aluminum is flooding the U.S. market, contrary to demand.

    “Since the president exempted Canada, imports from Canada of the product that accounts for the largest share of Canada's aluminum exports to the United States have surged above historical levels,” the USTR office said in a statement following the announcement.  “The surge has intensified in recent months, despite a contraction in U.S. demand.”

    Heyman said Thursday that Canada should tread carefully with its response to the latest round of tariffs. During a press conference Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland promised $3.6 billion in tariffs, providing a dollar-for-dollar match on the costs of Trump’s latest round of levies.

    He said that silence from the Canadian government would send a poor message to its citizens and the global community, but that escalating the fight with Trump could lead to him taking further economic action.

    “I think he’s hoping that [Canada will] punch back so that he can whip this up into, again, a multi-day conversation of a political tiff with a neighbour who is ‘taking advantage’ of [the U.S.], which is totally inaccurate,” he said.

    “I think you’re going to have to think about it carefully.”