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Congressman Richard Neal

Representing the 1st District of Massachusetts


US Rep. Richard Neal says trade disputes with Canada could hurt Massachusetts' economy

June 13, 2018
In The News

SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, cautioned the Trump administration Tuesday against escalating trade tensions with Canada, arguing that imposing new tariffs on the country's imports could hurt Americans -- particularly those in Massachusetts. 

Neal, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said while threatening tariffs can be an effective negotiating tool, it can also be dangerous. 

He further raised concerns that such actions, coupled with the president's comments regarding the Group of 7 summit, could undermine the United States' long-term relationships with its allies and negatively impact the U.S. economy.

Contending that Canada is Massachusetts' largest trade partner, Neal argued that growing trade tensions could impact commerce in the state, as well as energy prices. 

"Trade with Canada is terribly important to the Massachusetts economy. ... Not only are we selling our products there, but we're helping to buy some of their products," he said in an interview. "They are a major energy exporter, which helps stabilize prices."

The congressman, who noted that he recently met with the Canadian ambassador to discuss some of Trump's criticisms, said he supports efforts to re-examine trade deals and tariffs, but wishes the president would use more than just "bluster."

"I think that the threat of tariffs is not a bad negotiating position -- I understand that. Certainly, I think with proceeding in questioning intellectual property rights in China it's a good idea. Reviewing NAFTA after 24 years is a good idea. But you can't do it with just bluster," he said. "These are career people that undertake these very sensitive diplomatic discussions."

Neal further said he believes it's hard to move forward in negotiating with U.S. allies "when you're getting on a helicopter and you announce that Russia should be admitted to G7, making it G8 without previous consultation."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, also recently raised concerns about the impact growing tensions between the White House and Canada could have on Massachusetts. 

The governor told reporters Monday that he's talked to various employers and companies in the state who "are worried about the lack of clarity associated with that relationship" between Canada and the U.S.

According to Canadian officials, Massachusetts exports $2.9 billion and imports $6.8 billion in goods to Canada annually. An estimated 211,000 jobs in Massachusetts, meanwhile, depend on trade and investment with Canada. 

Trump drew criticism from some world leaders after withdrawing from a group statement on trade at the weekend G7 summit in Canada and calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "dishonest" and "weak." 

Trudeau raised concerns that the new tariffs on metals, which the White House announced late last month, would hurt industries and workers in both countries, saying he wouldn't hesitate to impose retaliatory measures, the Associated Press reported.

Trump, at a Tuesday news conference, dismissed the reported tension between him and Trudeau, saying they have a "good relationship."

The president, however, stressed that he will no longer let countries take advantage of the United States on trade.