Government leaders in Canada say they will soon “refresh” a list of U.S. commodities targeted for retaliatory tariffs and hinted the new list could include apples.
Canada, in response to continuing Trump administration tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, will soon revise itself list of U.S. commodities targeted, one key spokesman said.
David MacNaughton, ambassador of Canada to the U.S., said an April 8 speech to agricultural journalists in Washington, D.C., did not say what new commodities might be included in the revised list. However, several media sources, including The Hagstrom Report, said MacNaughton told the journalists that the U.S. exports a lot of apples, pork, wine and ethanol to Canada.
Canada’s 25% and 10% retaliatory tariffs target U.S. metal products and more than 200 other goods, including 10% tariffs on cucumbers, ketchup, orange juice, beer kegs and whiskey.
Anxious for progress
Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association, said MacNaughton’s remarks raise concerns.
“Anytime your traditional number-two export market has a cloud put above it, then that’s obviously going to be of concern,” Bair said April 9. “We’re in communication with the Canadian embassy and monitoring (the situation),” he said.
Bair said Canada and Mexico have both said that U.S. Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs must be lifted before the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement can be ratified.
“It’s not particularly a surprise to see our trading partners ratchet up rhetoric a little bit just to try to build a fire under the U.S.,” Bair said. “We’ve been consistent in our message, that whichever happens first we don’t care — we just know both the USMCA needs to get ratified and Section 232 steel and aluminum need to get lifted as quickly as possible.”
With a new crop coming on, apple growers need certainty in export markets, Bair said.
Mexico, the leading export market for U.S. apples, has a 20% retaliatory tariff on U.S. fresh apple. China, an emerging market for U.S. apples, has a 15% retaliatory tariff on apples and other fresh produce, in addition to other tariffs. India has threatened to levy a retaliatory tariff on U.S. apples but so far has not done so. Even so, the threat of a tariff has slowed the growth of that market, Bair said.
The U.S. 2018 fresh apple crop is running more than 10% less in volume compared with year-ago levels, and exports also have been down for the season so far.
U.S. trade statistics show that U.S. apple exports to Mexico (August through December) totaled $82.1 million, down 6% from the same period in 2017. Exports to Canada in the same period were $55.7 million, off 14% from year-ago levels. U.S. apple exports to China were $6 million, down 33%. Exports to India from August through December last year were $5.9 million, down 73% compared with $22.1 million the same period in 2017.
Restoring free trade for apples in the North American market is the top priority for the apple industry, Bair said.
“We need USMCA to get passed just to stabilize what we already had,” Bair said.