Wilson spoke as a delegation during a public hearing today to deal a proposal from President Trump to impose tariffs on cars and car parts imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
The tariffs are being proposed under section 232, which deals with issues of trade affecting national security. The hearing was to determine what – if any – security risk exists.
“It’s an old archaic law,” said Wilson, laughing at the idea of Canada and Ontario presenting a threat to the US. “Why in the world would you want to ruin a perfectly good relationship?”
Wilson was representing the Ontario government as the newly appointed Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. He called it an interesting experience for a guy from Alliston, Ontario.
He speculated Trump was bringing Canada into the trade wars as a show of power, but guessed Trump’s real unhappiness was with Mexico and Asia.
“He wants to tell the world he can put a tariff on whatever he wants,” said Wilson. “It’s an unusual state in trade affairs.”
Ontario was the only sub-national level of government represented in the 46 delegations that spoke at the public hearing, chaired by Wilbur Ross. Wilson said the tariffs would hit Ontario hard.
“If they bring in a 25 per cent tariff a $35,000 car in Canada will go up by $8,000 overnight,” said Wilson. “Canada (in particular Ontario) would lose thousands of jobs and the US would lose hundreds of thousands.”
According to Wilson, 86 per cent of Canada’s cars go to the USA, and Ontario is a leader in automotive and parts manufacturing.
“Unfortunately it’s tit for tat,” said Wilson, indicating if the US implemented tariffs on automobiles and auto parts, Ontario would have to retaliate with tariffs on other items imported from the US. “It’s a war where no one wins, and it hurts families on both sides, but more families on the US side.”
Wilson said Canada and the USA have had an integrated supply chain since the 1960s and called it one of the “most secure and prosperous automotive industries and one of the friendliest relationships in the world.”
According to Wilson, one in five jobs in Ontario relies on trade with the US. He called the
“We haven’t done anything to them and they haven’t done anything to us, so why are they dragging us into this trade war?” questioned Wilson.
Following the public hearings, Wilbur Ross will be making a recommendation to President Trump on the issue of automotive and auto part trade affecting national security and should, therefore, be subject to a tariff.
“Hopefully they don’t do that to Canada and Ontario,” said Wilson.