Representatives from Canada’s steel and aluminum industries welcomed news on Friday that the government has struck a deal with the U.S. that will bring an end to tariffs on the two metals when they are exported to America.
“It’s everything we’ve always asked for,” said Jean Simard, spokesperson for the Aluminum Association of Canada, in a phone interview.
“We are very happy with what we know has been agreed to which is a total repeal of tariffs without any quotas,” he said. “We think it’s a great victory for Canada, for the industry and the North American industry as a whole.”
On Friday afternoon, the two countries put out a joint press release announcing the end of the tariffs within 48 hours, an end to WTO disputes between themselves on the issue, and an agreement to work together to monitor whether or not other countries are trying to flood the market with cheaper alternatives.
“This decision reflects what is known to be true by friends on both sides of the border: Canada has been America’s most steadfast ally for more than a hundred years, and our long-standing partnership and closely linked economies make us more competitive around the world and improve our combined security,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at a news conference at a steel plant in Hamilton on Friday.
“With this decision, Canadian and American businesses can get back to what they do best, working constructively together to the benefit of our economies, our people, and our communities.”
There had been some concern from both industries that a possible solution to the impasse might include quotas, which would mean that Canadian product could be shipped to the U.S. free of surcharges, but total amounts would be capped.
The agreement laid out Friday makes no mention of that, which is great news, according to Ken Neumann, the national director for Canada at the United Steelworkers union.
“There’s no quotas imposed whatsoever, which was one of the things that had been contemplated, [so] we are very pleased with that,” he said in an interview.
Neumann said his organization is pleased with the agreement, but the government needs to do more to protect Canada’s domestic steel industry from cheap imported steel.
Other countries do a lot more to protect foreign suppliers from flooding domestic markets with cheaper steel, so Canada’s lack of action on the matter makes the industry vulnerable.
“I am a bit concerned by that position because there is overcapacity of steel and aluminum around the world and if Canada hasn’t protected itself and if you’re one of those countries that has overcapacity and is looking for a home, Canada becomes a big target.”
The U.S. targeted Canada in the first place because it alleged it was effectively being used as a back door by other countries to get their excess steel into the U.S., first by getting it into Canada and then into the U.S. by exploiting the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Canada was never ever the problem,” Neumann said. “We’ve had a trading relationship for decades and we have an integrated market — this was just so wrongheaded from so many angles.”
Neumann added that 600 members of his union were given layoff notices in the past year because of the tariffs. He’s hopeful that many of those jobs can now be saved as companies feel confident to spend and invest in Canada.
The group that represents Canada’s steel industry also welcomed the news.
“It’s a good day for the industry and our employees,” said Catherine Cobden, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, in an interview with CBC News.
She added that the ten months of tariffs was an “unsustainable” situation that never should have happened. She welcomed Friday’s news because “it will return us to free and unencumbered trade with the U.S.”