Finance ministers talk trade as feds told to ‘look before you leap’ on tariffs

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Finance ministers from across the Canadian federation are meeting in Ottawa today to explore a number of challenges weighing on their economies — with a particular focus on the intensifying trade dispute with the United States.

The twice-yearly gathering of finance chiefs comes just days before Canada is set to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. The federal government’s move, a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration’s stinging tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, will take effect Sunday.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments have maintained a common front in dealing with U.S. Donald Trump’s protectionist policies, which includes the difficult renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says it’s important for Canada to stand its ground and to speak with one voice on the tariff dispute.

Related: Kelowna boat retailers worry about tit-for-tat tariffs by U.S. and Canada

Related: Trudeau says he can’t imagine Trump damaging U.S. by imposing auto tariffs

But when it comes to retaliatory measures, Friesen is urging the feds to look before they leap to ensure they’re not unduly exposing Canadian businesses to risks.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao says he’s keen to discuss possible fiscal measures to support businesses affected by the U.S. tariffs and to reassure firms that Canada is a safe and profitable place to invest.

“The key issue in this possible trade war is investment decisions,” Leitao said before the meeting. “Firms are delaying or postponing investment decisions.”

The finance ministers will also hear a presentation on the Canada-U.S.. relationship from Ottawa’s envoy in Washington, David MacNaughton.

The Canadian Press

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