Hamilton

Donald Trump's loss relieves fears of future U.S. steel tariffs under Biden

Hamilton's steelworkers and those tied to the industry can sleep easier knowing Donald Trump lost the U.S. presidential election — and his tariffs on steel likely won't return anytime soon.

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and city mayor eager to rebuild relationship

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden's trade platform hints at avoiding national-security tariffs against allies' steel and aluminum. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Hamilton's steelworkers and those tied to the industry can sleep easier knowing Donald Trump lost the U.S. presidential election — and his tariffs on steel likely won't be returning anytime soon.

Roughly 40,000 Hamilton jobs hinge on the steel industry and Keanin Loomis, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said he's excited by the idea of Canada and the U.S. becoming allies again with Joe Biden in office.

"The spectre of tariffs that was constantly hanging over our heads for the last couple of years is now gone, so when you look at the damage that could have been done over the next four years, if [Trump] had been elected, I think we avoided a lot of uncertainty," Loomis said in an interview on Sunday.

"A great deal of optimism has been ejected into the economy ... confidence is one of the major underpinnings of any economy."

In 2018, the Trump government implemented tariffs — 25 per cent on imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum — saying Canadian steel was a security risk. Canada implemented retaliatory tariffs, and has long argued the Trump-imposed tariffs were illegal.

The Trump administration withdrew tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum in 2019, but threatened to reimpose aluminum tariffs after the Nov. 3 election. (Tara Walton/CP)

Mayor Fred Eisenberger called the tariffs an "unnecessary, aggressive irrational act."

"That was all based on a notion they could restore the lost steel industry in the United States. Similarly they tried to restore the lost coal industry as well and at some point you have to move on and accept the reality of where the science and manufacturing is going," he said during an interview on Sunday.

"We're hoping we don't have those kinds of irrational, unsubstantiated reactions to perceived slights between countries."

The tarrifs left workers fearing job losses and higher prices on steel products. It also prompted Ottawa to give $2 billion in assistance to the steel and aluminum industry.

The tariffs were called off a year later, in 2019, but threats of more tariffs returned in 2020. The U.S. was set to impose a 10 per cent levy on Canadian aluminum imports with Canada about to announce its own round of tariffs on products made with American aluminum, but then the Americans announced they reached a deal.

Despite the tariffs being called off, analysts and experts said the conflict may have returned if Trump was re-elected.

"Constantly having that threat hang over your head, that chills investments, optimism, confidence and creates a barrier within the market and the supply chain," Loomis said.

"It did a lot of damage to relationships and I think a lot of American companies that were using Canadian steel had a contingency plan in place, if not, lowering their input of Canadian steel into their products just to cover themselves and prevent themselves from being overly reliant."

Any Canadian tariffs on American imports would have forced Canadian consumers to pay more for products hit by the measure — just as the U.S. tariffs would have driven up the cost of everything from beer to cars by forcing American consumers to pay a tax on products made with Canadian aluminum.

Biden has, however, promised some changes. His trade platform hints at dropping the national-security tariffs against allies' steel and aluminum.

Susan Rice, who was on Biden's short list of running mates, previously told CBC News she was "offended" by Trump's national-security tariffs against Canada, and said Biden would not impose them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

With files from Samantha Craggs, Alexander Panetta and Peter Armstrong

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