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Tariff Reactions On The Northern Border


Call it war. Call it a skirmish, a tactical tit-for-tat. The U.S. tariffs on Canada and Canada's retaliatory tariffs aren't just political blows between President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The tariffs have real-life impact on businesses on both sides of the northern border. Garry Douglas would know. He's the CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, an organization that supports businesses across the northernmost region of New York state. And we reached him in his office. Good morning.

GARRY DOUGLAS: Good morning. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm very well. More importantly, how are you? How are the companies and stores up there dealing with these tariffs?

DOUGLAS: Well, our nerves are frayed. Plattsburgh, N.Y., is known very widely as Montreal's U.S. suburb. And thinking in those terms really defines the difference between the U.S.-Canadian economic relationship and our relationship with China, Mexico, Europe and other places. We're so fully integrated in so many ways that we make things together, which makes tariffs, applied by the U.S. in the relationship, really self-harming.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump slapped a 25-percent tariff on steel and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum on many countries around the world including Canada. And then Canada turned around and ordered similar tariffs but also included 10-percent tariffs on all sorts of homemade goods - yogurt, strawberry jam, pizza, sleeping bags. The list goes on. When you talk to the businesses you represent, how are they feeling the impact, if at all?

DOUGLAS: Well, in the near term, you wouldn't expect that they would yet. It takes a while for tariffs to filter down to where they actually get reflected in prices. So it takes time for that. What is happening and what we do hear anecdotally and I know is starting to occur are decisions that are being postponed. Things that would be happening now otherwise aren't happening - the establishment of a new supplier. Well, you know, I don't know how this might affect that. Maybe I'll put that off, which means lost business to that supplier that they would have gained. Well, we're thinking of adding those new jobs. I think we'll wait and see what's going to happen. Well, we were thinking of that expansion or that new piece of equipment. Let's put things on hold. That's what uncertainty does in the near term. It requires businesses to step back, reflect and wait until they're sure what's going to happen before they proceed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are steel and metal plants in your area. What are they telling you about these tariffs? They're the companies President Trump said he was working to protect.

DOUGLAS: Interesting - we have a very large Alcoa plant in St. Lawrence County right on the Canadian border. Alcoa and aluminum are the perfect example of how integrated the U.S. and Canadian equations are. Alcoa is opposed to this. It's not helpful to them because their plants in northern New York are very integrated and work very synergistically with their plants in Quebec. And, by the way, the U.S. steel workers at their plants in northern New York have come out and said, you know, well, some of this might be good. But Canada has to be exempted from this. So that tells us, you know, directly right there - all right, it's not good for the company. It's not good for the workers. It makes you wonder who it's supposed to be good for.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We have been hearing specifically from Canadians - and we saw this in Mexico when there was tensions down there - that Canadians are sort of now adopting a Canada-first approach. They're saying buy Canadian. Let's not go to the United States. Are you feeling the impact of that up there?

DOUGLAS: No. We're so closely aligned with our friends in Montreal. But let me say that's not the issue. The issue is we are causing offense to our friends, our allies and our neighbors. They are right to be hurt. And we're hurt by the assertion that, somehow, this needs to be done on the basis of national security.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Garry Douglas, CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, thank you so much.

DOUGLAS: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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