'Nobody wins in these cases': Yukon braces for trade tariffs

Peter Turner, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, believes the reciprocal trade tariffs will harm both countries and increase costs.

Whitehorse metal shop worries about rising prices for steel, aluminum

'To not respond would put us at odds with the rest of the international world,' says Peter Turner, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, about Canada's retaliatory tariffs. (CBC)

Yukon businesses are bracing for the effect of tariffs between the U.S. and Canada.

The tariffs will raise the price of imported products ranging from large-scale industrial materials such as aluminum and building supplies, to smaller things like sleeping bags and playing cards. 

Peter Turner, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, believes the reciprocal trade tariffs will harm both countries and increase costs. 

But he believes Canada has no choice.

"Nobody wins in these cases, but to not respond would put us at odds with the rest of the international world. Europe is responding, and Mexico as well," he said.

Turner says the tariffs will not affect most Yukon/Alaska cross-border trade.

The largest import for Yukon from Alaska by far is seafood, which is not included on the list of tariff items. 

The biggest export from Yukon is mineral ore from mining projects which is also exempt. 

However, Turner says municipalities and large-scale construction projects will be affected if they use steel or aluminum. 

Canada retaliated against U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, announcing tariffs of its own on items from ketchup and mustard to pizza and strawberry jam, in an apparent effort to target swing states. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Canadian consumers will also see higher prices for some items imported from the U.S. such as jams, chocolate bars and larger items such as refrigerators, dishwashers and other appliances. 

The full list of items which will see a retaliatory tariff imposed by Canada can be read here.

The Yukon Chamber of Commerce is asking its members to contact the federal government and express their views. 

'That's a lot of money' 

One company affected is Duncan's Ltd., in Whitehorse. The company has been making metal works which include signs, gates, industrial sinks and counters, ducts and more, for 50 years.

Joe Zuccarini, who has worked there for three decades, says metals have already increased in price this year.

Duncan's Ltd., in Whitehorse, has been making metal works which include signs, gates and more, for 50 years. (George Maratos/CBC)

"Since January 1st, it's about 40 per cent already" he said. "Now another 25 per cent — that's a lot of money."

The company is also facing increased costs for transportation and fuel. The cumulative effect means it's had to revise quotes for some future projects and raise prices. 

That poses a "major problem," Zuccarini says, as some customers have cancelled work because of the rising costs.

"Some projects don't go ahead because of the price. The economy is going to slow down."

The tariffs are scheduled to take effect on July 1st. 

Yukon Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai says it's too early to know how tariffs will affect Yukon government capital projects. 

He says it's been "quite a wild ride," dealing with trade, as the U.S. administration seems unpredictable. 

"It's a challenge. Absolutely. Certainty is always the key to business, that's what we try to strive for. But this sort of destabilizes that. It's frustrating when things like this happen," he said.

Lobbying against tariffs

Yukon has been lobbying against the tariffs through a coalition called Pacific Northwest Economic Region, which represents the interests of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington as well as B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

The group has sent a letter to the White House asking that Canada be exempt from steel and aluminum tariffs. 

'Certainly, we have some great concerns,' said Yukon economic development minister Ranj Pillai. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

"Certainly we're watching closely as this unfolds. We support the federal government 's approach to this conversation. What the true impacts will be on our economy has yet to be seen. Certainly, we have some great concerns," Pillai said.

Michael Manjuris, chair of global management studies at Ryerson University, also thinks the federal government's response has been fair. 

"They've balanced the political need to respond — to show the American administration we're not going to take these moves lightly — but also balanced it with the economic needs of Canadians," he says.

Manjuris says it's hard to predict what will come next.   

"The reason is some of the irrational behaviour we've been seeing coming out of the Trump administration, at least in regards to trade," he says. 

As for the Canada's next move, he says it may be to simply wait and see if retaliatory tariffs get the U.S. president to change his mind. 

"We've done our move and now we're going to wait and see," Manjuris said. 

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