Canada moves to use ’emergency’ measure to protect steel sector

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Ottawa – Canada’s finance minister warned Tuesday that US tariffs on steel have led to a spike in imports of cheap foreign steel that threaten the local industry.

While visiting the ArcelorMittal Dofasco steel plant in Hamilton, Ontario today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said tariffs on steel imposed by the United States has created a surge in foreign steel that may be disrupting the market.

“We have seen increases in imports; that’s an important reason why we have come forward today,” Morneau said during a news conference, reports the Financial Post.Second-quarter trade data from Statistics Canada shows a spike in shipments from countries like Brazil, India, Turkey, and Germany. “That surge in imports leads us to be concerned that we need to consider what measures to take.”

Morneau said that before deciding on measures to block the surge in cheap steel imports, he would be consulting with industry officials, noting that any action would target specific products and not countries.

Morneau said the ministry has launched a 15-day public consultation process for seven steel products that will include steel plate, concrete reinforcing bar, energy tubular products, hot-rolled sheet, pre-painted steel, stainless steel wire, and wire rod. Back in June, the federal government was looking at just three categories of steel products,

A worker handles steel cable at a steel factory in Lianyungang  in China's eastern Jiangsu prov...

A worker handles steel cable at a steel factory in Lianyungang, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, on May 1, 2018
-, AFP/File

However, companies wanted the government to look at more products. And with the two-week public discussion started, there could be even more products added to the list. Canada wants to avoid being a “back-door” for the surge in inexpensive steel imports from countries trying to avoid paying the 25 percent tariff the U.S. has imposed.

“We know that because of the unfair tariffs imposed by the United States, other countries will be seeking alternative markets for their steel products,” Morneau said.

The European Union has already imposed safeguards to ward off steel that might otherwise have been sent to the U.S. This has led a top executive of a major steel group in Canada to wonder why the Liberal government hasn’t done the same.

“All of the producer community would agree that ideally, we’d like to return to a situation where there’s a fair trade in steel,” Joseph Galimberti, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, said in an interview ahead of the announcement. “The government has to take similar steps to protect Canadian producers or face pretty serious consequences as a result of global diversion.”

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