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Steel producers urge Trudeau to retaliate quickly against U.S. tariffs

OTTAWA — Canadian steel producers are pressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to move more quickly to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum, warning that companies in Canada are already losing business because of Washington's trade moves.

The producers met with Trudeau Monday afternoon and emerged saying they had made the case for Canada to act faster.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justified a delay in imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum during Question Period in the House of Commons on Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justified a delay in imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum during Question Period in the House of Commons on Monday.   ( Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS )

“I think we’d like to have the tariff put in place as quickly as we can,” said Joseph Galimberti, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association.

Galimberti noted that there are tariffs on Canadian exports of steel and aluminum to the U.S. but nothing yet on American exports entering Canada, even as producers in this country begin to feel the bite of Washington’s trade measures.

The Trump administration last week announced that it was imposing 25 per cent steel tariffs and 10 per cent aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The Liberal government hit back on Thursday, announcing that it would impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum, as well as on a host of other consumer products — but not until July 1. The government justified the delay, saying it wanted to consult first on the potential impacts of its tariff decision.

Galimberti said Canada had responded in a “meaningful way” but added, “we’d like to see it imposed quickly.” He said the federal government could immediately slap reciprocal tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum while taking time to consult on the other products.

He said the 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel destined to the largest export market is a “dire situation. However, Galimberti said that Canadian companies aren’t yet asking for federal aid because they are still assessing the impact of the tariffs on the steel industry, which he said employs 23,000 workers and supports 100,000 indirect jobs.

“I think they appreciate our circumstance and I think that they understand clearly we are going to see a reaction quite quickly from the economy,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pressed Trudeau on the issue during Question Period, asking why the government had delayed its retaliatory action.

“The effect to jobs and the Canadian economy is happening in real time. The American tariffs went into effect immediately and Canadian shipments of steel are already being turned back from the border,” he said.

“Why is the Prime Minister waiting three weeks?” Scheer asked.

But Trudeau justified the delay, saying the government had to consult first on the potential impact of its own actions. “We would not want our decisions to hurt workers in Canada,’ he said.

Galimberti said that he and company CEOs will be meeting in the coming days with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, and others, including opposition MPs.

In Montreal on Monday, International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne took part in a gathering of aluminum industry representatives from G7 countries.

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