Why Trump is starting a trade war with Canada

President Donald Trump’s administration fired its first shot in a potential trade war, but it’s not Beijing or Mexico City in the cross hairs. The target: our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada.

Trump has escalated what were modest and longstanding frictions with Ottawa over U.S. dairy products and Canadian lumber into a full-blown trade dispute largely because Canada is an easy target and doesn’t have as many weapons to fight back. By slapping a massive tariff on Canadian lumber, while touting his protection of dairy farmers — especially in Wisconsin, a key swing state — Trump has a chance to look tough and decisive on the international stage as he tries to renegotiate NAFTA, one of his big campaign promises.

“Canada is an easy villain,” said Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “They cannot retaliate with the force of a China or a Mexico. It’s not like Canada is going to open up the border and let a whole bunch of Central Americans into the United States. So Canada is a pretty safe target.”

In February, Trump said his administration would be “tweaking” NAFTA in any renegotiation, suggesting that changes would be small.


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