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Canadian steel companies stand on guard against tariffs

Steel advocates warn the heavy lifting against U.S. protectionist measures not over
Algoma Steel Direct Strip

The head of an industry group representing Canadian steelmakers is remaining vigilant about foreign-dumped coming into Canada and being diverted into the U.S.

The Canadian Steel Producers Association (CSPA) issued a March 8 news release welcoming Canada’s exemption from the tariffs announced by the Trump administration in response to the Section 232 investigation on The Effect of Imports of Steel on the National Security.

The association called the exemption “positive news” for Canadian steel companies.

“We continue to support the dialogue between Canadian and U.S. governments to ensure our integrated markets remain open and that our respective supply chains collectively grow, while continuing to address global steel excess capacity issues.

“We do remain concerned about the potential diversion of offshore steel to the Canadian market as a result of Section 232 related actions.”

That’s a big break for Sault Ste. Marie-based Essar Steel Algoma, a maker of hot and cold-rolled sheet and plate that’s exported to the U.S., mainly for the auto industry. Algoma is also a huge producer and exporter of armour plate to the U.S.

CPSA president Joe Galimberti thanked Ottawa for its lobbying efforts on the file and urged the government to ensure the North American market is “effectively defended from unfairly traded steel.”

A Washington-imposed 25 per cent tariff would have been disastrous for the integrated North American steel market. In 2017, 11 million tonnes of steel crossed the border, in both directions, between the two countries, according to the CSPA.

The U.S. is the main destination for Canadian-made steel, amounting to 90 per cent of Canada’s export. Canada is the main destination for American-made steel, representing more than 50 per cent of U.S. exports.

U.S. steel imports represent one-third of Canada’s domestic market but Canadian exports only represent 6 per cent of the U.S. domestic market.

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce congratulated Ottawa for reaching a “significant milestone in advancing Canadian interest” and praised the efforts of local MP Terry Sheehan, MPP Ross Romano, and Mayor Christian Provenzano.

“Recent days have driven home to everyone, in both Canada and in the United States, the importance of the North American steel industry and the many jobs in both countries that are created, both directly and indirectly, as a result of the industry,” said a March 8 chamber statement.

The chamber was in Ottawa twice last year, joining their steel city counterparts from Hamilton and Windsor-Essex, to appear before the Standing Committee on International Trade and before the All-Party Parliamentary Steel Caucus.

“Together, we made a strong argument for exactly how important the steel industry is to both our community and to the national economy,” said the chamber.

The three chambers authored a national chamber resolution urging Ottawa to advocate for the Canadian steel industry against expected protectionist measures by Washington.

Sault MP Terry Sheehan said Canadians must remain vigilant to ensure Canadian companies remain permanently excluded from these tariffs.

The tariffs would have hurt the steel industry on both sides of the border, he said.

“I’m proud that our prime minister stood up for steel on many occasions, as did several cabinet ministers.”

Sheehan said the campaign will continue as they will work with American politicians to make “evidence-based decisions” and keep the cross-border steel supply line open.