March 24th, 2018

Trudeau applauds united front in battle against U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs

By Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press on March 14, 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with workers at the Essar Steel Algoma plant during a visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Justin Trudeau is crediting the co-ordinated efforts of business, labour and political leaders for securing an exemption for Canadian steel and aluminum from the recent threat of U.S. trade duties.

Speaking with industry heads Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., the prime minister said it would have been far more difficult to convince the United States that restricting Canadian imports was a bad idea without having everyone on the same page.

“One of the really strong things about our approach is that we’re all saying the same kinds of things from very, very different perspectives,” Trudeau said.

“It’s been a real team effort and Canada has been united.”

U.S. President Donald Trump recently exempted Canada and Mexico from tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, although the U.S. government has been dropping hints that the exception is only temporary. Trump in particular has been linking Canada’s fate on tariffs to the outcome of the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.

Ahead of Wednesday’s roundtable discussion, Trudeau emphasized how the level of integration between the American and Canadian steel industries means both economies would suffer from trade restrictions.

“We can see the bridge built with local steel here that literally connects Canada to the United States,” he said, gesturing out the window toward the overpass spanning the nearby St. Marys River that separates the Canadian city from its American namesake in Michigan.

“These are things that I highlighted to the president.”

The northern Ontario steel community was the latest stop on a tour of metal cities, which began in Alma, Que., moved to Hamilton on Tuesday and was scheduled to wrap up later Wednesday in Regina.

Trudeau shook hands and greeted workers during an early-morning shift change Wednesday at the Algoma plant in Sault Ste. Marie.

Coils of steel radiated heat from a flatbed behind him as he reassured employees that it makes no sense for the U.S. to reverse the exemption.

Canada will not flinch in its support for workers, he said, adding that he hopes the threat of U.S. tariffs can be solved in a friendly way.

Later, Trudeau was taken on a tour of the Algoma facility. Wearing a white hard hat, he watched from a raised walkway as a red-hot sheet of steel shot along rollers and was sprayed with water, sending a sharp hiss throughout the plant.

During his earlier visits to factories in Saguenay, Que., and Hamilton, Trudeau repeated his message that the national security argument the U.S. has made when it comes to tariffs makes no sense and could not apply to Canada.

Speaking in Hamilton on Tuesday, Trudeau said there are measures in place, including tariffs and tougher border controls, to prevent steel and aluminum producers in other countries from using Canada as a back door to slip cheap metal into the U.S..

Trudeau said the surplus of steel in the global market is not new and with American tariffs in place, some countries might try to ship their products to the U.S. through Canada.

He said Canada would be alert to such scenarios and would work with industry partners and the U.S. to make sure that doesn’t happen.

– Follow @gwomand on Twitter

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