Trump’s claims Canadians smuggle shoes to avoid tariffs ‘laughable,’ experts say
The U.S. president seems to be confusing tariffs with customs duties Canadians pay upon returning home after shopping south of the border
OTTAWA—U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim Canadians are smuggling shoes across the border to avoid “massive” tariffs on American goods doesn’t make sense, experts say.
“It’s great for American retailers if Canadians go cross-border shopping,” said Werner Antweiler, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
He added it’s unclear what exactly the U.S. president was referring to in his remarks.
Trump, who is intent on adding tariffs on numerous Canadian products, including steel and aluminium, lambasted what he called Canada’s high tariffs on U.S. products at a speech Tuesday.
Canucks, for example, scuff up shoes they purchase south of the border and smuggle them back home, he said.
“No, we’re treated horribly,” he said, before shifting to complaining about dairy tariffs.
Antweiler called the comments “laughable” and “completely untrue.”
There are no tariffs on most consumer goods because Canada and the U.S. are signatories to a free trade agreement that is still in effect, he said, referencing NAFTA.
Tariffs would only apply on shoes purchased in Canada made outside of America.
It’s possible Trump was referring to Canadians attempting to avoid paying duties on shoes purchased in the States.
Travellers who stay in the U.S. between 24 and 48 hours can claim an exemption for goods up to $200, while those who stayed 48 hours or more can claim up to $800.
Beyond those exemptions, Canadians must pay applicable duties, HST and GST.
But that money goes to the Canadian government, rather than the U.S., Antweiler said.
In fact, it’s far better for the U.S. economy if Canadians buy shoes in Buffalo rather than at home, said Bernard Wolf, professor emeritus at York University’s Schulich School of Business. That way a U.S. retailer earns the profit over a Canadian one, he said.
The president “seems misinformed” about the issue, Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, said in a statement.
“We welcome anyone from anywhere to come and purchase shoes in America,” he said. “It helps both our brands and retailers grow. Period. We don’t care where they wear them, and if they get scuffed up all the better so we can sell them more.”