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Steel tariffs to have ripple effect, says chamber

At midnight tonight, the United States will slap a 25 per cent tariff on imports of steel from Canada, Mexico and the European Union
The Algoma steel plant in Sault Ste. Marie will be impacted by U.S.-imposed steel tariffs that take effect June 1. (Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday)

Initial local reaction to President Donald Trump's 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian-made steel is swift and overwhelmingly critical.

"Obviously the news is very disappointing," said Rory Ring, chief executive officer at the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

"This impacts everybody, right down to street level. This has the potential for significant economic and social ramifications," Ring told SooToday.

"This is not just the steel industry. It goes through that to the supply chain into the steel industry. What happens to the economy? What happens to Gus's Pizza? To the people who are doing the catering into Algoma or Tenaris? The echo into the small business community will be significant."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced today that a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel and a 10 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum will take effect at midnight.

Mexico and the European Union are also included in the trade decision.

Sault-base Algoma (formerly Essar Steel Algoma) manufactures and sells hot and cold rolled steel products including sheet and plate.

Working through affiliated business groups, Ring said the local chamber has worked hard to make local views on steel tariffs known not only provincially and nationally, but also in the United States.

"It's disappointing that the Trump administration has not listened to some of his own constituents and advisors. Many states rely on Canadian trade. Our supply chains within the steel and aluminum industries are highly integrated. They're a clear demonstration that our trade with the U.S. is in balance."

"Steel in particular," Ring said. "Six billion dollars go into the U.S. from Canada and six billion goes to Canada from the U.S."

Ring called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take "immediate and aggressive" measures to safeguard Canadian steel and its supply chain by applying reciprocal tariff and quota-based measures, also pushing for future tariff exemptions.

Canada should be willing to consider retaliatory measures beyond steel," the local chamber CEO said. 

"I think there's been a complete failure on the part of the U.S. administration to understand that what will be felt in Sault, Ontario will also be felt in Soo, Michigan, in Ohio, in Arizona, Texas and the midwest."

"Our other expectation is that the government of Canada will take immediate action to ensure that there is no diversion of steel from other countries."

"That means those safeguard measures must be extended beyond the U.S., on a global basis."

"Canada must stand strong for fair and open trade in a rules-based way," Ring said.

Shortly after Trump publicized the tariff plan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a proclamation of his own, announcing retaliatory surcharges responding to the U.S. tariffs imposed by Trump.

Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the surcharges will total $16.6 billion on U.S. steel, aluminum and other products.

The surcharge will be 25 per cent on some products, 10 per cent on others.

The countermeasures will take effect on July 1.

Canada will hold 15 days of consultations on the countermeasures.