OTTAWA, April 27, 2019 /CNW/ - The failure of Justin Trudeau's government to protect Canada's steel sector against cheap, subsidized foreign imports threatens thousands of Canadian families and their communities, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.
"This government must not abandon Canadian workers and communities in their hour of need," said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
"Thousands of jobs across the country are now at risk due to the Trudeau government's failure to maintain safeguards protecting Canada's steel sector from a surge in foreign imports," Neumann said.
"Cargo ships are now undoubtedly bound for Canada to dump massive amounts of cheap, subsidized foreign steel into our market, threatening workers and producers across the country," he said.
Last October, Canada implemented provisional safeguards on seven steel products to protect Canadian producers and workers from a surge in imports from countries shut out of the U.S. market by President Donald Trump's tariffs.
The safeguards have proven effective in supporting Canada's steel sector over the last six months, prompting calls from the USW and Canadian steel producers for the government to maintain the measures before today's expiry date.
However, the Trudeau government announced late Friday that it is allowing safeguards to expire on five key Canadian products – hot-rolled steel, pre-painted steel, energy tubular products, rebar and wire rod. The government has decided to maintain safeguards on only two products – steel plate and stainless wire.
"Even with the safeguards in place, market conditions in Canada have deteriorated and approximately 700 of our members have already been laid off," Neumann noted.
"It is unacceptable for the Liberal government to reopen the Canadian market to a surge of foreign dumping. Abandoning these safeguards means Canada will be one of the few countries in the world to allow foreign steel to flood into its market, which could have disastrous effects," Neumann said.
"From the U.S. and Mexico, to nations in Europe and Asia, countries around the world have taken measures to protect their markets and their workers," he added.
"The European Union has issued final safeguards for 26 steel products. Turkey and Mexico have adopted measures to protect their markets. Egypt and even India are pursuing safeguards for their industries."
The Trudeau government announced Friday that it will launch a 30-day consultation period with representatives of Canadian steel workers and producers "to determine what further protections are required."
The USW will participate in the consultation process, Neumann said. However, "we are concerned it will be too little, too late to avert the consequences of the Canadian market being exposed to the inevitable surge in foreign imports," he said.
"The best way to protect Canadian steel producers and workers would have been to maintain the safeguards," he added.
The Trudeau government's decision also has negative implications for a resolution of the steel tariffs controversy between Canada and the United States, the USW says.
"We've been working tirelessly on both sides of the border to resolve the tariffs issue, but the U.S. administration remains concerned that Canada would appear to be either unwilling or unable to protect its steel market," said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President.
"The Canadian government's failure to take stronger measures to protect its market and prevent trans-shipment means the Canadian steel industry remains vulnerable to cheap, subsidized foreign imports," Gerard emphasized.
The Trudeau government's refusal to maintain safeguards also will deter investment by Canada's steel producers, Neumann said.
"Even with the government's support for investment in the industry, steel companies are not going to invest in their Canadian facilities if Canada does not protect its market," he said.
"With the U.S. tariffs still in place and a Canadian market open to a surge in foreign imports, investment will dry up. Most Canadian producers are multinationals that are competing globally for investment and they will invest elsewhere if our market is not protected.
"We call on the Trudeau government to reverse course and protect Canadian steel and steel workers, and we are ready to work with the government to address this immediate and grave threat to the industry."
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, [email protected]