Quebec's aluminium industry says U.S. tariffs hurt America first

A group representing players in Quebec's aluminum industry says the United States is hurting its own industry by imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports, beginning at midnight Thursday.

CEO of trade group AluQuébec said players will diversify, sell elsewhere to cope with U.S. revenue loss

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and players in the province's aluminium industry say they hope the U.S. reverses its decision, but say the tariffs will hurt U.S. customers most of all. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

A group representing players in Quebec's aluminum industry says the United States is hurting its own industry by imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports, beginning at midnight Thursday. 

The announcement that the U.S. would move forward with tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum came from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Thursday morning.

The tariffs were originally announced in March, but members of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union were exempted until June 1.

Despite today's confirmation that the period of exemption will end as scheduled, the Quebec Aluminum Industrial Cluster — or AluQuébec — is still hopeful the White House will have a last-minute change of heart. If it doesn't, AluQuébec says, the U.S. will suffer the most.

The tariffs being imposed are 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on imported aluminum.

Canada is the largest supplier of aluminum to the Americans, with a total export value of close to $5.6 billion US, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and 90 per cent of Canadian aluminum is produced in Quebec.

The most pain will be felt by manufacturers in the U.S. such as General Motors, Ford, Boeing and Toyota, which rely on Quebec suppliers to meet their aluminum needs, said AluQuébec's CEO, Marie Lapointe. The tariffs will hurt their supply chain.

"This could decrease the level of growth because of lack of supply. It would be sad," she said.

She said the tariffs will make the U.S. less competitive as manufacturers incur higher production costs which will need to be passed on to the consumer.

"We think that it's not good for all the supply chain, and it's not good for the U.S. customer," Lapointe said.

She said sometimes aluminum goes back and forth across the border between Quebec and the northern U.S. multiple times, and it will now incur a tariff each time.

As for Quebec's aluminum industry, Lapointe said smaller industry players that rely heavily on the U.S. market are sure to suffer. For that reason, "we hope that this is a decision that can be reversed and shall be reversed," she said.

However, Lapointe said, the Quebec industry is innovative, and bigger players are in a good position to diversify into other markets.
Yves-Thomas Dorval, head of the employers group the Conseil du Patronat du Québec, said the U.S. is showing an unwillingness to work with trading partners. (Navneet Pall/CBC )

'Bad decision for the Americans'

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard took a similar position, saying the tariffs mean U.S. customers will now have to pay more for their goods.

"It's a bad decision for the Americans," he said. "It's illogical." 

"This is an unjustifiable decision that will further damage the American economy," echoed the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), a major employers group that promotes business interests in Quebec, in a statement.

"This clearly demonstrates the unwillingness of our neighbours to the south to understand the importance of maintaining an open and constructive dialogue with all its trading partners," said the CPQ's president, Yves-Thomas Dorval.