The Canadian government is slapping the US with massive tariffs -- and they might be even bigger than expected

US President Donald Trump (L) and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Matt Cardy/ Getty Images.

  • Canada announced tariffs on US goods in response to President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs.
  • The Canadian government said they were targeting 16.6 billion Canadian dollars, or roughly $US12.8 billion US dollars.
  • Business Insider found in an analysis that the total value of the goods Canada listed as subject to tariffs is more than that stated goal.

The Canadian government announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods that look to go beyond the value of US tariffs on imports of Canadian steel and aluminium.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the responsive measures to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium from the US’s northern neighbour.

Freeland and the Canadian government pegged the total value of the goods subject to the Canadian tariffs at 16.6 billion Canadian dollars, or roughly $US12.8 billion US dollars. Those values are roughly equal to that of the Canadian steel and aluminium exports to the US.

“In response to these measures, Canada intends to impose surtaxes or similar trade-restrictive countermeasures against up to C$16.6 billion in imports of steel, aluminium, and other products from the US, representing the value of 2017 Canadian exports affected by the US measures,” Canada’s government wrote on its official website.

A spokesperson for the Canada’s Global Affairs office also confirmed to Business Insider that the target was to place tariffs on 16.6 billion Canadian dollars.

But after totaling the value of Canada’s list of US goods subject to tariffs using import data, Business Insider found that the value of these exports is equal to roughly just over $US15 billion US dollars, or 19 billion Canadian dollars.

The spokesperson said the government stands by its analysis that the total value of the goods subject to tariffs is 16.6 billion Canadian dollars.

Business Insider used 2017 import data from Canadian statistics agency StatsCan and the Harmonized System code for each product on the tariff list. The Harmonized System contains a unique code for a product to distinguish it from other materials and is used to standardize the identification of goods moving through the international trade system.

Another analysis, using the US Census Bureau, would paint the retaliatory measures as even more severe. Based on an analysis of US export data, the value of the goods subject to tariffs was $US15.72 billion, well above the target level.

While the tariffs being higher than expected could certainly have ramifications for US businesses, experts say they would be permitted under international law.

Canada argued that the retaliatory tariffs on US goods were legal under World Trade Organisation rules since they were equivalent to what they viewed as an improper US action. Debbie Shon, a partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel and a former official in the US Trade Representative’s office under President Bill Clinton, told Business Insider that the exact value of the tariffs doesn’t have to be exactly the same.

“It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, dollar for dollar,” Shon said. “The other country just has to show that the response was commensurate to the original action.”

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