Steelworkers at the Evraz plant in Regina—and all across the country—have an extra reason to celebrate this Victoria Day, because this is the day that illegal American tariffs on Canadian steel come to an end.
In a major trade triumph for Canada, led by Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Freeland, the complete, clean lifting of the tariffs was announced last Friday. They are now gone. Evraz management and United Steelworkers Local #5890 were jubilant at the news. Their business volumes and 1,100 Regina jobs are secure.
The absurd U.S. steel tariffs were imposed nearly 11 months ago under an old American national security law. The accusation that Canadian steel exports posed a security threat to the United States was factually wrong, illogical, counterproductive and rather insulting.
The Government of Canada responded immediately to defend Canadian steel workers, their employers and their top quality, fairly traded products.
We retaliated, dollar-for-dollar, with Canadian tariffs on American exports, targeted to make sure U.S. lawmakers would feel the greatest impact, with the least disruption for Canadian consumers. We launched legal proceedings against the Americans under international trade law. And we implemented safeguard measures to prevent foreign subsidized steel from being dumped into Canada and then transshipped to the United States.
Canada also bargained hard with the U.S. administration to get rid of the tariffs.
We pointed out that the North American steel industry is a multi-billion dollar success story for both countries. It is totally integrated. Supply chains criss-cross the border in an economically efficient and mutually beneficial way. The flow north-and-south is big and pretty much in balance. To throw up trade barriers simply escalates costs and kills jobs, in both directions.
Furthermore, while we have negotiated and signed a new North American free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, it is not yet implemented. The illegal U.S. steel tariffs were a complete contradiction of free trade. So we made it clear to the Americans that it would be extremely difficult for Canada to implement that new trade deal if those steel tariffs remained in place.
Our retaliatory measures had the desired effect. Many U.S. Senators and Members of Congress heard complaints from their constituents about the costly retaliation which the U.S. steel tariffs had provoked.
They also understood the impossibility of getting the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico free trade deal implemented as long as those illegal tariffs remained in effect. The senior Republican Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, published an eloquent article to make that point crystal clear.
Canada’s trade team was very strong and unequivocal. We were completely united and consistent. We gave no sign of weakness or capitulation. There were no divisions. For example, when the Americans floated the idea of some sort of export volume cap to be agreed upon, we said “no” with a unified voice.
The Steelworkers union was fully engaged and very helpful, from President Mike Day at the local level here in Regina to international President Leo Gerard. And our Canadian efforts also benefited from the skilful interventions of Canada’s Ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton.
Going forward, Canada and the United States have agreed to maintain the normal, historical cross-border trading patterns in steel which have been so mutually beneficial. We have also agreed to be alert to prevent imports of foreign steel which may be unfairly subsidized and dumped into North America, damaging both of us.
With this tariff issue now resolved, our two countries (and Mexico) can move to implement the new North American trade agreement—another great triumph for our Team Canada trade negotiators—which preserves our preferential access to the U.S. market while modernizing its terms for the 21st century.