Saskatchewan

Foreign affairs minister celebrates removal of tariffs at Regina Evraz facility

A 25 per cent U.S. tariff on Canadian steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum were officially lifted on Monday at 12:01 a.m. On Wednesday, federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Evraz Regina to celebrate.

Tariffs imposed by the United States on Canadian steel, aluminum were lifted Monday

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland celebrated the removal of tariffs on steel and aluminium at Evraz in Regina on Wednesday. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

The sounds of the hustle and bustle at the Regina Evraz facility were silenced, albeit temporarily, Wednesday for a small celebration.

A 25 per cent U.S. tariff on Canadian steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum were officially lifted on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

On Wednesday, federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Evraz Regina to celebrate.

"It has been a long effort," Freeland told workers at the steel plant.

"One of the things that I held in my mind in some of the harder moments was I really wanted to come here and say to the great, extremely talented hardworking people who work here … we had managed to get those unfair tariffs lifted," she said to light applause.

Freeland offered her thanks to unions and members of the Canadian steel industry who she said rallied and worked hard to get the U.S.-imposed tariffs lifted, along with Canada's retaliatory tariffs.

The foreign affairs minister said she was proud of how Canada dealt with the tariff situation, and handled things in "the right way."

"We know that our trade in steel with the United States is balanced. We stayed united, we were patient, and we were persistent," she said.

Section 232 was always sitting there, and until Donald Trump, nobody ever really wanted to use it.- Mike Day, United Steelworkers 5890 president

"We knew the facts were on our side. We know we're not a national security risk to the United States."

The tariffs were imposed last June under Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act. That clause allows a sitting president to determine whether goods being traded can be deemed a threat to national security.

The clause had been used by the U.S. only twice in the past —  in 1979 on oil imports from Iran, and in 1982 against similar imports from Libya — before President Donald Trump did so almost one year ago.

"Section 232 was always sitting there, and until Donald Trump, nobody ever really wanted to use it," said Mike Day, president of the United Steelworkers of America 5890.

"To use it the way they did, calling us a national security threat, was ridiculous."

Regarding the possibility of more tariffs being imposed, Day said it's hard to know what the future has in store.

Large pipe tariff lifted, duties remain

Although the tariffs have been lifted, a 12.5 per cent duty remains in place for large-diameter welded pipe, some of which is manufactured at Evraz in Regina, due to American dumping concerns.

Freeland said Canada and the United States have a trade relationship to the tune of $2 billion every day, and it's inevitable that "trade irritants" will exist.

"That is why we have our NAFTA dispute settlement process and the [World Trade Organization], to resolve those disputes," Freeland said.

"That's why maintaining the Chapter 19 NAFTA dispute settlement system was so important to us in our negotiation."

She noted the tariffs levied against Canada didn't fall under that category because the tariffs were imposed under the U.S. Trade Expansion Act.

Conrad Winkler, president and CEO of Evraz North America, said the duties —  including preliminary duties that went up last year — and tariffs together combined to create a nearly 50 per cent cost increase on pipe purchased from Canada.

"Going from 49 per cent to 12 per cent, I feel pretty good about that improvement to start with, so we're taking a moment right now to take a deep breath and enjoy that moment," he said.

"That 12 per cent, it's tough for us to absorb and compete every day."

He said in order to remain competitive in the marketplace Evraz has to give its clients a better, safer product with a lower total cost of operation.

"We think that we can succeed, but we'd like to see those [12.5 per cent duties on pipe] come off," Winkler said.

"There is a review process that happens, and that'll … start somewhere in the summer of 2020," he said.

"We have our ducks in a row, and we fully believe that at that point, we'll be able to get those large-diameter duties to be fully removed."

With files from Adam Hunter and John Paul Tasker

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