Regina, Toronto, Ottawa– After a lot of angst and uncertainty, steelworkers at Regina’s EVRAZ steel and pipe mill can now breath a sigh of relief, as the United States lifted tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
The tariffs were brought in by the Donald Trump administration, which cited “national security” as one of its reasons. The fact the tariffs were still in place after the conclusion of a renegotiation of the NAFTA deal was seen as an impediment for Canada’s ratification of the new deal.
The lifting of the tariffs came on May 17, just before the Canadian Victoria Day long weekend.
Mike Day, president of United Steelworkers Local 5890 at EVRAZ Regina, said on May 21 it means job security, by being able to sell steel plate and pipe to the U.S.
“It opens up those doors again to those products in the United States. We’ve said before, China overflooded the market. It became an issue, and the United States took their stance, and somehow thought Canada was a problem, a national security threat, even though we’re allies.”
Day hopes there will be more orders for their 24-inch and smaller mill, with pipe for drilling and pipelines. “Hopefully this gets the sales team’s phones ringing and gets that mill back up to full capacity. It’s been down to two crews for the last while down, due to no U.S. orders.
“We haven’t had any employment loss or layoffs yet, but I don’t know how long we could have sustained that.”
Day said EVRAZ had been moving staff around, between different mills in the facility, to keep them working, but didn’t think that could go on indefinitely.
He noted that there has been hiring, but he wasn’t sure if it was for summer relief or something else.
The union local has about 1,100 members, all working at EVRAZ Regina.
Day said, “Finally some good news has come out of this,” pointing to the continual attacks on oil and gas and pipelines.
The company has mostly been working on orders destined for north of the border. The Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline is pretty much done, he noted, and the natural gas pipeline for the LNG Canada project is going to be big.
Premier Scott Moe issued a statement on May 17 saying, ““Canada’s steel is among the most sustainably produced in the world, and we in Saskatchewan are proud that our steel products are an integral part of so many industries across North America. The removal of tariffs from our steel and aluminum products is a good step in strengthening jobs and economic growth, and removes barriers to Canada’s relationship with our most significant trading partner.
“Saskatchewan has worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of our sustainable steel industry, and I will convey our thanks to our American partners for removing these tariffs when I am in Washington D.C. next week. I will also continue to focus on building Saskatchewan’s strong trading relationship with the United States when I meet with Senators, House Representatives and key members of President Trump’s administration, including United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.”
On May 21, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said in an emailed statement, “I’m glad to see the tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum lifted. It’s vital to the province’s economy that the sustainable steel produced by the hard-working men and women at EVRAZ can get to market.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said in a statement on May 17, “Today’s decision by the United States to remove tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum is terrific news for Canadian steel and aluminum workers, their families, and many communities across the country.
“Over the last several months, I have met with Canadian steel and aluminum workers, including in Regina, Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, and the Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean region of Québec. They are at the heart of Canada’s world-class steel and aluminum industry, which creates thousands of good, middle class jobs and supports tens of thousands of families.
“When the U.S. imposed tariffs, we stood up for Canada’s economy and our steel and aluminum workers and their families. We immediately retaliated dollar-for-dollar – the strongest retaliation in the world. We stood firm and would not back down until we achieved today’s outcome. As a result of today’s decision by the United States, Canada will lift its retaliatory tariffs.
“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.
Trudeau thanked Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the entire Canadian negotiating team
Since the U.S. was lifting its tariffs, Canada, in turn, lifted their retaliatory measures against the U.S.
Consequently, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that effective May 17, Canada is lifting its retaliatory countermeasures against the U.S.
Morneau said, “With these developments, Canadian and American businesses can now get back to what they do best: working together constructively and supporting good, well-paying middle class jobs on both sides of the border. The removal of tariffs and countermeasures is a true win-win for everyone involved, and great news for Canadian and American workers, for our communities, and our economies.”
In Toronto, the United Steelworkers (USW) on May 17 welcomed the agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico to lift U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel, but urged the Canadian government to impose critical measures needed to defend Canada's steel sector against import surges and unfair trade practices.
“We have fought the U.S. tariffs non-stop for close to a year and their removal is good news for workers, producers and communities across the country,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
“Our union has been pushing as hard as we can – in Canada and in the U.S. – for these tariffs to be lifted. We've finally achieved that goal, but it should have been resolved long ago,” Neumann said.
“From the outset we have taken the position that these tariffs were illegal and unjustified. They were imposed on the basis that our exports posed a threat to U.S. national security, but of course Canadian steel and aluminum have never posed any such threat,” he added.
“These absurd tariffs were particularly harmful because Canada and the U.S. have an integrated market in steel and aluminum,” Neumann said.
“The tariffs have had a significant effect on Canadian workers, with more than 600 layoffs in the steel sector. Additionally, new investments in our steel and aluminum sector have been put on hold or jeopardized due to the instability caused by these tariffs,” he said.
“Our steel sector and our workers are still at risk from predatory practices of foreign producers who flout fair trade rules and who are now shut out of other markets. It is critical that the federal government impose measures to stabilize our market and defend Canada's steel sector from these destructive practices.”