The Canadian government’s retaliatory tariffs were actually hitting Canadian businesses more than they were impacting American businesses

The Canadian government’s lifting of retaliatory tariffs on boats manufactured in the US was welcomed and appreciated by both countries’ boating industries, but it was no accident according to one official involved in the process.

“For them to give such a narrow exception just to the boating industry is a testament to our advocacy on both sides of the border,” Nicole Vasilaros, Sr VP, government & legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), told IBI.

Vasilaros said under the direction of NMMA Canada president Sara Anghel, dealers and manufacturers on both sides of the border were mobilised with an easily understood message: The Canadian government’s retaliatory tariffs were actually hitting Canadian businesses more than they were impacting American businesses.

“That was the story line for the past 18 months,” Vasilaros said. “Because Canada doesn’t have a large manufacturing sector [in marine], all of the economic impact they see from the boating industry is in large part the boats exported there [from the US]. Together, we were able to get a course change.”

Progress being made in talks between the US and China regarding tariffs being removed on some 350 marine products hit a snag, Vasilaros said, when President Trump took to Twitter.

“The President indicated on twitter that he wasn’t happy with the direction and not only was he not going to remove tariffs, but might increase it to as much as twenty-five percent and put on another US$300bn in tariffs on other products. So, it’s very disconcerting news,” she concluded.

Vasilaros said the lack of a comprehensive foreign trade policy and the trade war itself are hurting American businesses and its reputation in the world market. She said there is universal agreement that China needs to be held accountable for its intellectual property infringement and unfair trade practices, but that America is “Going it alone.”

“We’ve alienated our allies in Canada, Europe and Mexico and then, while we’re seeing negotiations go well, then we have a President who gives conflicting remarks. It causes issues in the stock market and a lot of volatility here in Washington and a great deal of uncertainty about where we go from here.

Vasilaros said for people like herself who deal in advocacy daily, Washington today “is a whole new paradigm.”

“This is not just the difference between a Democratic or Republican administration. The way this administration has worked has been quite unconventional particularly on the trade realm. At last report, nearly half the positions [in the US Trade Representative’s office] remain unfilled; so, at a time we are negotiating massive trade policies, with so many different nations, they don’t even have the infrastructure within the Department of Commerce that are the typical connection points. So, it has been challenging, to say the least.”

Vasilaros said the news out of Canada should remind the industry about effective advocacy, just one week in advance of the American Boating Congress, when the industry meets in Washington, DC to lobby the house and senate on issues important to their business.