Hamilton

Trudeau touts USMCA deal during Burlington tour as government pledges support for steelmakers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a tour of metal stamping facility in Burlington Thursday as an opportunity to tout the new USMCA trade deal, but didn't have any words for steelmakers left out of the trilateral agreement.

Innovation minister says government will announce steel safeguards in a 'matter of weeks'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped at MetriCan Stamping Co. in Burlington Thursday to tour the facility and tout the new USMCA trade deal. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a tour of metal stamping facility in Burlington Thursday as an opportunity to tout the new USMCA trade deal, but didn't have any words for steelmakers left out of the trilateral agreement.

During his visit to MetriCan Stamping Co. in Burlington, Trudeau made some brief remarks to a semicircle of gathered employees of the auto parts company.

"I want to thank all of you because the messages we got ... over the past year were always stay firm, stand strong, stick up for our jobs and I think we've done that together," he said to a round of applause.

The Prime Minister started his day by meeting with dairy farmers in Montreal and will end it at a fundraising dinner in Windsor. After trying his hand at manufacturing some truck hitches in Burlington he was whisked out the door.

But Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains was on hand to answer some questions about what being left out of the deal could mean for the 10,000 direct steel production jobs in Hamilton just a 20-minute drive down the highway.

"We recognize that we can and must do more when it comes to steel and aluminum," he said, adding the government has made it clear they believe the tariffs of 25 per cent for steel are "unjust and unfair."

At one point during his visit, Trudeau pulled on some work gloves and goggles before trying his hand at making some truck hitches. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The minister said the government is working on safeguards to protect the Canadian steel industry from foreign dumping and added recommendations from Finance Minister Bill Morneau should be coming in a "matter of weeks."

Bains said he disagrees with the United Steelworkers who said the government "sacrificed" steel workers to make the deal while discussions about steel continue on a different track.

"We've stood and supported the steel and aluminum workers," he explained. "We definitely recognize how important they are to the automotive sector and more broadly the manufacturing sector."

He said the government is looking at a $2 billion support package for workers and has already handed out 100 loans through Business Development Canada to support "smaller businesses" and suppliers facing cashflow issues.

Automotive Parts Manufacturer's Association president Flavio Volpe was also at MetriCan for the prime minister's visit and noted steel and aluminum are the main ingredients for their products, meaning parts suppliers have been bearing a lot of weight under the tariffs.

Flavio Volpe, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, said the industry is ready to fight steel and aluminum tariffs in court if necessary. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

He said he's hopeful they'll be pulled back once ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and Japan are concluded.

If that doesn't happen, he said the industry is ready to take a more drastic step.

"We're prepared to fight the tariffs in court whether that's U.S. district court or international trade court if they don't get reduced or taken away in the next short while."