Why Is Trump Risking a Trade War With Canada?

Donald Trump is not the first U.S. president to tangle with Canada over lumber. In fact, the first U.S. president to do so was the first U.S. president. George Washington’s administration saw a dispute over ownership of valuable forests on the border between New Brunswick and present-day Maine.

So despite Trump’s recent tough talk about the trade relationship with America’s neighbor to the north, his announcement Tuesday morning of new tariffs on Canadian lumber is actually consistent with what U.S. policy has been for decades. Where Trump differs from previous presidents, though, is in very publicly sounding off about a longstanding disagreement. In so doing he has also, apparently, found a new target for his trade-related ire, even as he softens his stances toward previous targets like China and Mexico.

“We’re going to be putting a 20 percent tax on softwood lumber coming in—tariff on softwood coming into the United States from Canada,” Trump said Tuesday morning. Actually, the Commerce Department is levying tariffs on a range of Canadian lumber companies, with the average coming to around 20 percent.

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