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Steel tariffs may lift when USMCA signed, new Mexican foreign minister says





The U.S. is expected to lift its steel and aluminum tariffs when a new North American trade deal is signed, Mexico’s incoming foreign minister said Monday.

Marcelo Ebrard spoke to reporters following talks today with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa. Seven secretaries-designates from incoming Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government were meeting with their Canadian counterparts.

Freeland confirmed the pair discussed the tariffs. She said she’d “love them to be lifted today” but did not directly answer a question put to both ministers about when they expect the Americans to drop their 25 per cent levy on steel and 10 per cent levy on aluminum products.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other members of his administration have spoken of the tariffs being useful leverage in trade negotiations, as well as a good source of government revenue. But now that a revised U.S.–Mexico–Canada trade agreement has been reached, the Americans have made no commitments about when the tariffs could end, or what the criteria would be for ending them.

“I think that might occur when the agreement is signed,” Ebrard said in Spanish. He did not say why he believes that to be the case.

The USMCA is expected to be signed Nov. 30 — the earliest possible date, according to the U.S. Congressional timetable, following a required 60-day period from the date its text was posted (Oct. 1). That’s also the last day current Mexican President Enrique Peña ​Nieto is in office.

Peña ​Nieto’s ministers presided over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and although the incoming government has said it will honour the terms negotiated, all parties have said they’d like the deal to be signed before Lopez Obrador’s government is sworn in Dec.1.

Suggestions that the Trump administration wanted to hold a symbolic three-country ceremony for the USMCA earlier than late November have been rebuffed by both Canadian and Mexican officials, who have insisted their focus is on getting the tariffs lifted first.

Mexico’s secretary-designate of foreign affairs Marcelo Ebrard joined Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for a press conference following their meetings. He told reporters he expects U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to be lifted before the revised North American trade deal is signed Nov. 30. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Freeland have both said talks to lift the tariffs are on a “separate track” from the USMCA negotiations.

Freeland repeated that Canada sees the tariffs as “unjustified and illegal” according to international trade rules, and is challenging them at both the World Trade Organization and through NAFTA’s existing dispute settlement provisions.

While she wasn’t as definitive as Ebrard, Freeland did say that it’s “quite reasonable” to think that there’s momentum building in favour of lifting the tariffs between the North American trading partners.

Both Freeland and Ebrard denied the suggestion that signing on to the final USMCA text under current circumstances made it easier for the U.S. to use national security as justification for future tariffs.

The Mexican delegation is touring Montreal, Toronto and Guelph, Ont., for meetings with provincial governments and various private-sector representatives. In addition to Ebrard, the future secretaries for interior affairs, economy, environment, energy, finance and agriculture are also on this tour.

The group met privately with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later Monday afternoon.

Lopez Obrador won Mexico’s July 1 election with 53 per cent of the popular vote. His party —​ Morena, the National Reconciliation Movement — is a left-leaning social democratic movement with nationalist economic policies. It formed a coalition with a leftist workers’ party and the evangelical (socially conservative) ‘social encounter party’ to win power.

While it has backed away from extreme nationalist positions, Lopez Obrador’s platfom focused on populist appeals: empowering the underprivileged, alleviating poverty and violence and eliminating corruption among the political and business elites that Lopez Obrador called Mexico’s “mafia of power.”

The incoming administration is expected to pay particular attention to the needs of rural Mexicans, making potentially transformative changes in sectors like agriculture.

Tensions remain over steel

Canada’s relationship with the outgoing Mexican administration became fraught in the final weeks of NAFTA talks, as Mexico agreed to a bilateral deal with the Americans in August that put Canada under pressure to sign on before the end of September.

The new USMCA trade deal attempts to preserve the integration of North American automotive supply chains, including its integrated steel industry.

A week ago, Mexico’s outgoing economy secretary Ildefonso Guajardo telephoned Freeland to express frustration over new surtaxes Canada is about to levy on $200 million worth of two kinds of Mexican steel exports.

Mexico believes that Canada’s decision to impose emergency safeguards on energy tubular (pipeline) products and wire rod undermines its argument that its steel exports are fairly priced, despite differences in labour standards and wages across the three countries.

Mexico’s outgoing economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo expressed frustration over Canada’s decision to apply a surtax to two products representing 20 per cent of Mexico’s global steel exports, at a time when both countries are trying to persuade the U.S. to lift other steel tariffs. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

The U.S. has demanded export quotas from Canada and Mexico in return for the removal of the tariffs, something Freeland has appeared to rule out, despite other reports suggesting the industry was being consulted on what kind of restrictions it could accept.

In an interview with CBC News last weekend, Freeland said two countries want to move their bilateral relationship “beyond the NAFTA talks” and get “off on the right foot.”

She told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio’s The House:“As far as we know, Canada is the only country that this Mexican team is coming to meet with, and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming them.”

Freeland characterized Mexico’s incoming government as progressive and said it had strong ties with civil society groups in Canada.

On Monday, Ebrard said in Spanish that he hoped the two countries would turn over a new page in the history of their bilateral relationship. In addition to trade issues, the pair discussed cannabis legalization, climate change policies and the protection of human rights.


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Ontario’s new automated speed enforcement explained





(NC) To wage the war against speeding, many municipalities across Ontario have turned to automated speed enforcement. Most recently introduced in Toronto, speed cameras are a high-tech solution to reduce speeding and are considered one of the most effective ways to create safer roads and save lives.  

Recognizing police officers cannot catch all speeders, these cameras fill the gap, providing monitoring in specific locations around the clock. When a car’s speed is even one kilometre over the posted amount, it will take a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, using the captured photo as indisputable evidence. A ticket is then served to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of who was driving. 

With a focus on high-risk areas, Ontario’s automated speed enforcement cameras are located in two specific municipal areas: school and community safety zones. School zones are designated streets close to a school, featuring reduced speed limits as dictated by local bylaws. Community safety zones are high-risk corridors and intersections, subject to increased fines and penalties.  

While the Ontario Highway Traffic Act outlines the use of automated speed enforcement, municipalities can decide when and where to use cameras to curb speeding. The act does dictate financial penalties for speed violations captured with cameras, which vary depending on the number of kilometres caught over the speed limit.  

Speed enforcement is not new, but part of a broader, integrated road safety strategy that includes infrastructure improvements, awareness campaigns and new uses of technology. City officials hope for a halo effect, inspiring better driving behaviour across entire communities, not only in areas with cameras. A controversial topic, some critics take exception to speed cameras, labelling them as sneaky cash grabs for municipalities. Governments think the opposite. 

Safety advocate and auto insurance provider Onlia is hopeful that the cameras will provide drivers with a reminder to slow down, especially in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones.  

For those who obey the speed limit, automated speed enforcement shouldn’t change anything about your driving style, says Alex Kelly, Safety Ambassador at OnliaDrivers have fair warning as they approach areas with speed cameras, as mandatory signs provide reasonable notice of upcoming automated speed enforcement. Regardless of warnings, the best speed is the posted speed. 

You can start to understand your speeding style by downloading the insurance provider’s new safe driving app that coaches and rewards for you for safe driving habits.

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Online banking: How to protect yourself from fraud





(NC) Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of consumers are regularly using mobile and online banking to paybill payments, transfer money and make purchases.

Although these tools can give you easy access to your personal finances on demand, there are also some risks involved. For instance, your banking information—such as your debit or credit card number, user name, or personal identification number (PIN)—could be stolen. If criminals have access to your online banking information, they can steal your money, which is why it’s so important to be  vigilant when you bank online.

Follow these tips to help protect your personal and banking information:

  • For your online bank accounts, use a strong password that can’t be easily guessed, and never share your user name or password with anyone.
  • Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no transactions you didn’t make or authorize.
  • When making online purchases, never authorize a website to save your credit card information, password or other personal information. Giving websites this permission will save you some time the next time you access the site, but it poses a real threat if a hacker manages to access your information.

Most financial institutions have policies to protect you from transactions that you didn’t make.

However, you are responsible for protecting your online and mobile banking information. If you give your details to anyone—including your spouse or partner, a family member or a friend—your financial institution may hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions in your account, and even strip you of protection from unauthorized transactions in the future.

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, change your passwords immediately, and check your account and credit card statements for anomalies and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created resources to help you protect your online banking information.

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Payday loans: Not the best way to borrow money





(NC) Payday loans are a very expensive way to borrow money. Even if you’re struggling financially, think twice—and crunch the numbers—before getting this type of loan.

Depending on the rules in your province, payday lenders can charge fees of $15 to $25 per $100 that you borrow.

As an example, let’s say you borrow $300 for home repairs. The payday lender charges you $51 in fees, or $17 for every $100 borrowed. Your loan balance is therefore $351, which amounts to an interest rate of 442 per cent.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t repay your loan by the due date. These may include the following:

  • The payday lender may charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • Your financial institution may also charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • The total amount that you owe, including the fees, continues to increase.

There are better options out there

Payday loans should be your last resort to borrow money. Consider cheaper ways of borrowing money, such as:

  • Cashing in vacation days or asking for a pay advance from your employer.
  • Getting a line of credit, a cash advance on a credit card or a personal loan from your financial institution.
  • Getting a loan from family or friends.

Before getting a payday loan and to avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, consider other, less expensive ways to borrow money.

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