U.S. firms need Canadian steel, aluminium and will be forced to pay tariff, says border expert

A border expert in Windsor says many U.S. firms rely on Canadian steel and aluminium, and at least initially, will pay the 10 to 25 per cent tariffs that come into effect Friday.

'I imagine they'll just have to pay the price until this is sorted out,' says Laurie Tannous

Laurie Tannous is a special advisor to the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

A border expert in Windsor says many U.S. firms rely on Canadian steel and aluminum, and at least initially, will pay the 10 to 25 per cent tariffs that come into effect Friday.

Laurie Tannous, special advisor to the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor, spoke about the trade war with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre Thursday.

"I think that eventually [U.S. companies] might be able to stabilize themselves, but our countries and our supply chains are so integrated that I think it's going to be very, very difficult at least in the coming months, if this even lasts that long," she said. "I think there's going to be a period of volatility and a lot of confusion and uncertainty."

Tannous suggested U.S. companies won't be willing to slow or shut down production while searching for domestic sources of steel and aluminum.

"If they've got a line, a product line, a production line that's awaiting this steel and aluminum, they can't stop production ... I imagine they're just going to have to pay the price until this gets sorted out."

When asked what will happen at the border itself when the tariffs come into effect, Tannous said it may be similar to what happened during last year's U.S. travel ban that targeted six Muslim-majority countries.

"I think there's definitely going to be some confusion ... whether it's the drivers not having the correct paperwork, having to go back to their brokers, the brokers having to go back to importers, so I think we're going to see a lot of confusion along the supply chain," she said.

"I would definitely tell everyone who is crossing the border to expect delays."

Windsor steel company bracing for price increases

Ryan Jordan, president of RJ Steel, a Windsor-based metalworking shop, said he's already experienced price increases of five to 10 per cent from when the tariffs were first threatened earlier this year.

Ryan Jordan is the president of RJ Steel in Windsor. (CBC)

"The threat [of] tariffs from President Trump changed things for us," he told CBC Windsor News at 6 host Arms Bumanlag. "The most obvious was the purchase of our steel material. We were forewarned by our suppliers that the prices would go up, and they did ... significantly."

Jordan said now that the tariffs are real, suppliers are telling him costs may increase an additional 10 to 15 per cent.

"Tomorrow morning, I'll be looking at our quotes ... to companies that we've had out there for a couple months and the jobs we'll be quoting in the future," he said.

"Unfortunately, we'll have to raise our prices to absorb the extra cost of raw materials."


Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email


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