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Mar 5, 2018

NAFTA trade relationships 'made of brick, not of straw': Martinrea chair

Why Martinrea’s executive chairman isn’t losing sleep over NAFTA’s potential demise


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When it comes to dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump’s bluster over North American free trade, a senior Canadian auto executive is turning to the Three Little Pigs for inspiration.

In an interview on BNN, Martinrea Executive Chairman Rob Wildeboer said the relationships forged between Canada, the United States and Mexico are made of sterner stuff, and won’t be broken by words alone.

“At the end of the day, what’s really happened in 18 months is there’s been a lot of talk, there’s been a lot of huffing and puffing about blowing our house down; but you know, our relationships are made of brick, not of straw,” he said.

While the three countries have made some progress over the course of seven NAFTA negotiating sessions, Trump has been adding fuel to the fire by tweeting repeatedly about the need for the U.S. to take action against foreign steel and aluminum manufacturers.

Trump has proposed slapping steel imports with a 25 per cent tariff, and aluminum with 10 per cent. The proposals drew swift opposition from both Canada and the European Union, which have both indicated they will respond with trade actions of their own if the White House moves forward with this plan.

Canada is far and away the largest foreign supplier of steel for the United States, selling about 4.3 million metric tonnes of the metal to our southern neighbour last year – about 16 per cent of all American steel imports. On the flip side, Canada is the main export destination for American steel, followed by Mexico.

Wildeboer warned tariffs would lead to higher costs for consumers, but said his company is well-insulated due to its geographically diversified manufacturing facilities.

“We’re not too worried about steel and aluminum tariffs, because most of what we buy is in-country produced … for customers in-country,” he said. “On a micro-level, we’re actually extremely well-positioned.”