heard Canada may slap 10% tariffs on playing cards, including those made by his Kentucky company, he thought it might be a joke.
“Really, Canada?” Mr. Slaughter, president of the United States Playing Card Co., recalls telling a Canadian friend. “Is that the best that you can do?”
Oh, but there’s so much more. Canada says it may also hit U.S. licorice, handkerchiefs, whiskey, lawn mowers, strawberry jam.
Canada is showing just how unhappy it is about tariffs President Donald Trump’s administration has imposed on its steel and aluminum. New tariffs have also sparked retaliation threats from Mexico, Europe and China, hinting at an all-out trade war.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister
in a speech this month said her country is retaliating with a “measured, perfectly reciprocal, dollar-for-dollar response.”
Canada has released a list of products it may retaliate against when it announces its targets June 30. Among them were obvious items such as steel, aluminum and meat—and an array of odd-sounding choices that led some who found their products on the list to a singular puzzled reaction.
Among things on Canada’s list are possible levies on inflatable boats, sleeping bags, “preparations for perfuming or deodorizing rooms,” “hair lacquers” and playing cards.
Mr. Slaughter, whose company is America’s largest playing-card maker—with brands such as Bicycle, Tally-Ho and Maverick—says he doesn’t expect any impact on his company or its nearly 400 employees who produce about 400,000 decks a day in Erlanger, Ky. Exports to Canada, he says, are less than 5% of its Business. The tax might be about 30 cents a deck, he says.
“It just felt very arbitrary,” he says, “like saying, ‘I’m going to poke you in the eye.’ ”
Some U.S. trade groups and companies are sweating the ramifications of Canadian tariffs. Joe Schuele, a spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says some members are worried about something on Canada’s hit list: “prepared meals, of bovine.”
The category could be prepackaged meals that include any cut of beef, Mr. Schuele says. “It’s a pretty narrow category, but Canada is a pretty significant destination for those products.”
Canada says its retaliatory tariffs—25% on steel and 10% on an assortment of food and other items—would take effect the day after it announces its final list and remain until the U.S. withdraws its tariffs.
It chose targets “with a view to mitigating potential impacts on Canadian Businesses, families and consumers” where alternative products are available, says
a spokesman for Canada’s Department of Finance.
During trade spats, countries often include symbolic products for levies, in part to pressure lawmakers whose constituents might be hurt.
That may explain the strawberry jam and whiskey. A lot of jam comes from the home state of
Sen. Sherrod Brown
of Ohio, a Democrat. A spokeswoman for jam giant J.M. Smucker Co., of Orrville, Ohio, said it is assessing the potential impact of tariffs.
Sen. Brown, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, says he won’t speculate on Canada’s motives but that he supports the Trump administration’s efforts to defend domestic steel.
Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers Association. It shipped $380 million of “whiskies” to Canada last year, according to the Census Bureau, its No. 6 export across the border. It is also home to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who warned Business leaders in Louisville earlier this month that bourbon could be among targets for retaliatory tariffs.
The Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group, wrote to Commerce Secretary
this month warning that tariffs by Canada and others threaten “to seriously impede the export progress that has benefited our sector.”
a Canadian government spokesman, declines to comment on whether Canada’s tariffs are aimed at lawmakers. “But,” he says, “you are free to draw your own conclusions.” He and the finance department’s Mr. Aubry decline to explain the reasoning behind individual items on the list.
puzzles over the sleeping bags on the list. Owner of Wiggy’s Inc., he sells high-end sleeping bags made in Grand Junction, Colo. With less than 1% of his sales going to Canada, Mr. Wigutow says he won’t bother contacting Congress.
“I think the Canadians, they’re grasping for straws when they pick on a rinky-dink company in the overall scheme of things,” he says. “As big as I am in the sleeping bag industry, I’m not
The boats are a mystery target to
marine division manager for
USA, a division of Japan’s Achilles Corp. “I don’t know why they would pick inflatable boats,” he says. Most inflatable boats the Everett, Wash., company sells are yacht tenders 9 to 12 feet long. Mr. Frank said it wouldn’t be affected much, because less than 5% of its sales go to Canada.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association, a U.S. trade group for recreational boating, is urging Mr. Trump to withdraw tariffs because higher costs for aluminum, and retaliation such as Canada’s, which also may include sailboats and motorboats, threaten the industry.
doesn’t quite get Canada’s penciling in ballpoint pens. “I can’t imagine what retribution we would feel here in the United States by doing that,” says Mr. Melvin, president of online retailer Coloradopen.com. Some pens he manufactures through an affiliate, Denver-based American Pen Co., sell for $75 to $350 each, but he adds, “The amount of product we ship into Canada is really minimal.”
Few companies make pens in the U.S. today, say Mr. Melvin and Fisher Space Pen Co., a Boulder City, Nev., maker of pens that write in zero gravity. “It is unclear yet what the full impact will be,” says
Fisher’s sales vice president.
a co-owner of My Hanky Inc. said if Canada picks handkerchiefs from its list, it won’t blow a hole in his Business. The New York company uses American-grown cotton spun in North Carolina and made into handkerchiefs selling for $20 a three-pack.
Mr. Marino said he sells “a couple percent” of his hankies in Canada and thinks people there will be willing to pay a little more for his product, which he says is far softer than those from many other places.
“Your first reaction is it’s a rip-off,” he says. “Then someone realizes, hey, it’s more money but it’s your face we’re talking about.”
Write to Kris Maher at [email protected]
Source : WSJ