May 30, 2018 / 6:07 PM / 6 months ago

Canada vows to 'respond appropriately' to any U.S. steel tariffs

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to reporters after talks with senior U.S. legislators on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., May 10, 2018. REUTERS/David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will “respond appropriately” to any U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday, less than two days before the punitive measures are due to kick in.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in March but later suspended them until June 1 to give the United States, Mexico and Canada time to push ahead with negotiations to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement. Talks on the pact have stalled, however.

“The government is absolutely prepared to - and will defend - Canadian industries and Canadian jobs. We will respond appropriately,” Freeland told reporters when asked about possible U.S. action.

Canadian government officials have said they are prepared to impose retaliatory tariffs should the Trump administration make a move but have not revealed what they have in mind.

Trump says the steel and aluminium tariffs would be imposed for security reasons, which Freeland said was “frankly absurd”. Canada has repeatedly rejected any suggestion it could be a threat to the United States.

Freeland spoke after returning from Washington, where she met U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss NAFTA. The negotiation “will take as long as it takes to get a good deal”, she said.

Reporting by David Ljunggren and Leah Schnurr; Editing by Dan Grebler and Tom Brown

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