Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton attends a business luncheon in Montreal, Wednesday, November 16, 2016. MacNaughton says he believes NAFTA negotiators can reach an agreement in principle by the end of March. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum could be gone in weeks, ambassador says

Canada’s ambassador to the United States showing certainty in the tariff issue

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says he believes punishing American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum could be gone in a matter of weeks.

David MacNaughton is saying little else about the source of his optimism beyond what he considers to be a growing understanding south of the border that the tariffs, imposed last summer and still in place despite a new North American trade deal, are doing more harm than good.

MacNaughton made the comments in Washington during a day-long free-trade forum hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.

He was coy about what may have changed, although there have been some significant developments on the U.S. political front, including President Donald Trump’s decision last week to declare a national emergency at the Mexico-U.S. border.

That move, designed to circumvent Congress in the president’s efforts to secure billions in funding for his border wall, effectively ended an ongoing standoff between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill that had been consuming a lot of oxygen in Washington.

MacNaughton also put to rest another persistent question in Ottawa, describing as “fake news” the speculation that he might be poised to replace Gerald Butts as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary.

He’s also confident that U.S. lawmakers will eventually ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, although when remains an open question.

On the issue of tariffs, however MacNaughton is sounding more bullish than he has in a while.

“I think that we’ll get there in the next few weeks,” he said.

READ MORE: 5 of the weirdest items affected by the Canada-U.S. trade war

READ MORE: U.S. to slap steel and aluminium tariffs on Canada, Mexico

“It is obviously difficult to predict accurately exactly what is going to happen here — there are many moving parts, there are other distractions — but I’m confident that we’re going to get there in the next few weeks.”

MacNaughton has been predicting a quick resolution to the tariff issue for a while. But there was a certainty in his comments Thursday that hasn’t been there much of late, especially when the topic came up during a panel discussion alongside Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

“I think we’re going to resolve it in a positive way in the next short while,” he said. “I don’t want to go into great detail, but I think we’re going to resolve this matter soon … even governments end up doing the right thing eventually.”

MacNaughton and Garneau were just two of the past and present lawmakers, diplomats and business leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico gathered in Washington to explore when Congress might get around to debating the merits of the USMCA.

WATCH: Americans #ThankCanada as tariff spat continues

Trump was, of course, top of mind for many. Former New York congressman Joe Crowley, who lost his nomination last year to rising Democrat star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, blamed the president for having ”weaponized” the issue of trade, a tactic that has alienated two of America’s most important allies.

Gordon Giffin and Jim Blanchard, two former U.S. ambassadors to Canada, shared a panel with former Canadian envoy Gary Doer, all three of whom called on the White House to lift its tariffs on steel and aluminum. They also agreed the new trade deal can’t be passed until those tariffs are lifted.

Tariffs aside, a number of Democrats and Republicans say they won’t vote for NAFTA 2.0 in its current form.

Democrats say the agreement lacks labour and environmental enforcement, and some don’t like its extended drug patent protections. U.S. officials say those concerns will have to be dealt with in so-called side letters or the bill Congress votes on to enact the deal.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RED resort announces new ski lift

Topping lift will add new ski area to resort, reduce bottleneck on Motherload chair

Update: Bodies recovered from Pend d’Oreille River crash

To help support the family, a fundraiser has been set up at Kootenay Savings in Fruitvale

South Okanagan-Kootenay MP calls federal budget ‘not bold enough’

Richard Cannings, MP for South OK and Kootenay communities says budget missed the mark

Paramedics union raises alarm over spike in out-of-service ambulances

Staffing shortages affecting service levels in Kootenays

Pilot program a good fit for Lower Columbia economic development

The B.C. Provincial Nominee Program Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot launched last week

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher premiums, private insurers say

Minor injury cap, court restrictions take effect April 1 in B.C.

Trans woman hopes funding cut will send message to B.C. rape crisis group

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, group says

B.C. sees fourth straight day of record-breaking warmth

Bob Marley said it best: The sun is shining and the weather is sweet

UPDATE: Two avalanches confirmed at Okanagan ski resort, one in hospital

A man has been sent to hospital after an isothermal avalanche at SilverStar March 20

Okanagan man, Yorkshire terrier chased by coyote

Animal sightings have been reported around West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

B.C. lottery winner being sued by Surrey co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Most Read