An agreement between Canada and the U.S. to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum is receiving universal approval from construction employers from coast to coast as well as steel manufacturers and steel workers.
Canadian Construction Association (CCA) president Mary Van Buren says employers are elated with the news, as the tariffs were disrupting supply chains and slowing down the country’s economy.
“The Canadian Construction Association was thrilled to hear that Canada and the U.S. reached a decision in May to lift steel and aluminum tariffs.
“The news will bring much needed relief to the construction industry, helping to restore business confidence and create stability in the marketplace.”
The tariffs had a “serious” impact on the Canadian economy owing to the sheer volume of the market, said Van Buren, with about $5.5 billion (U.S.), or 83 per cent of Canadian steel being sent south of the border, while $6 billion (U.S.), or 43 per cent of American steel, is exported to Canada.
“The tariffs disrupted supply chains and created uncertainty at a time when Canada is investing billions of dollars necessary to build its infrastructure.”
Van Buren said the CCA has long advocated for reciprocity and the establishment and maintenance of a free-flowing international system of trade.
“The end of this tariff dispute with the U.S. will provide stability for our membership and is a step in the right direction to restore investor confidence in Canada.”
Catherine Cobden, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association (CSPA), which represents producers and their 23,000 direct employees, says removal of the tariffs is positive news.
“The lifting of the tariffs is the best outcome for our producers, our workers and the highly integrated marketplace between Canada and the U.S. We welcome the return to free trade between our two nations.”
She says the CSPA will continue to engage with the federal government on implementation of the deal and will keep working to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the steel sector.
Fiona Famulak, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) which had been particularly vocal on the damage that the tariffs would inflict on builders, also applauded the move.
“This is very good news for B.C.’s construction industry. The lifting of tariffs — and more importantly, the ending of the trade dispute — allows construction projects to move forward with certainty about the price and supply of goods and materials that have been tariffed for almost 11 months.”
Contractors in B.C. were especially affected by the tariffs because the construction industry in that province relies heavily on steel from both the U.S. and overseas to build infrastructure as shipping domestic steel across Canada by rail or truck is prohibitively expensive.
Our steel sector and our workers are still at risk from predatory practices of foreign producers,
— Ken Neumann
VRCA was concerned that tariffs on steel and aluminum critical for construction had the potential to delay or defer projects in the B.C. marketplace. The tariffs disrupted supply chains and created uncertainty at a time when the province and Canada are investing billions of dollars necessary to build infrastructure.
Chris Atchison, president of the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA), also expressed relief on behalf of employers in the province’s ICI sector and expressed gratitude for the efforts of the CCA.
“The B.C. Construction Association commends the efforts of the Canadian Construction Association on this important national advocacy file as they leaned-in alongside and on behalf of their provincial and regional construction associations.”
The CCA, VRCA and BCCA have long advocated for reciprocity and the establishment and maintenance of a free-flowing international system of trade, he said.
The United Steelworkers (USW) said it welcomed the agreement but also stated the Canadian government should 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 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 the USW took the position from the outset that the 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. These absurd tariffs were particularly harmful because Canada and the U.S. have an integrated market in steel and aluminum.”
The tariffs resulted in more than 600 layoffs in the Canadian steel sector, he said, and new investments in the steel and aluminum sector were put on hold or jeopardized due to the instability caused by the tariffs.
“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.”