SAGUENAY, Que. _ Just before he heads to the G7 summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making a stop in the heart of Canada’s aluminum country _ and he’s repeating his pledge to try to convince Donald Trump that his tariff strategy is a big mistake.
Trudeau is campaigning in Quebec’s Saguenay region in support of a local Liberal candidate ahead of an upcoming byelection. But there are global politics at play too.
Saguenay has a significant connection to what will be a major point of debate for G7 leaders this week because the region is home to a major part of the country’s aluminum industry.
The U.S. president angered his G7 allies last week by imposing punishing tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. Canada and the European Union responded with tariff threats of their own, leaving Saguenay caught in the crossfire of a potential trade war between G7 partners.
“We’re interested in defending Canadian interests, and on top of that, it turns out I’m also defending American interests, because these tariffs they’re putting forward are going to hurt American workers as well,” Trudeau said.
“If I can get the president to actually realize that what he’s doing is counterproductive for his own goals as well, perhaps we can move forward in a smarter way.”
Trudeau has called the tariffs insulting and he, along with other G7 leaders, say they will demand Trump reverse the duties when they meet him during the leaders’ summit, which begins Friday nearby in La Malbaie, Que.
“The G7 is an opportunity for us to gather and have frank and direct conversations, and I’m very much looking forward to that.”
Business leaders in Saguenay fear the aluminum tariffs could hurt local companies, particularly smaller firms that transform the metal into finished products.
Trump’s tariffs were applied on G7 allies under a category that labelled them a security risk _ an assertion his partners have vigorously rejected.
Coincidentally, G7 leaders, including Trump, are scheduled to land in the region at the Bagotville military airstrip.
The Bagotville base was constructed decades ago to protect Canada’s crucial aluminum assets, which were used to build U.S. military equipment and vehicles.
Saguenay produces about a third of all Canadian aluminum, has four smelters and has been dubbed the “Aluminum Valley.”