Canada must oppose any reimposition of unfair aluminum tariffs

June 23, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to strenuously oppose any reimposition of punitive tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports to the United States by President Donald Trump.

“I urge you, Prime Minister, to reject any concessionary demands the U.S. requests of Canada on this matter,” wrote Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a letter sent today to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We must not allow these bullying tactics to succeed. I urge you to stand strong in the face of this misinformation campaign and reject any quotas that would disrupt the Canadian aluminum industry once again and lead to unnecessary layoffs.”

There are reports that the United States is planning to re-impose a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum unless Canada accepts strict export quotas on primary aluminum. This follows a request from the American Primary Aluminum Association (APAA) to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary Wilbur Ross to repeal Canada’s exemption to the Section 232 tariffs that occurred one-year ago in May 2019.

Canadian aluminum was subject to national security tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration between May 2018 and May 2019 when Unifor launched a campaign against the unfair tariffs.

“Section 232 tariffs were bogus the first time and it’s nothing short of an outrage for the APAA or the Trump administration to pretend once again that Canadian aluminum is somehow a threat to U.S. national security,” said Dias. “We simply cannot allow the tantrums of small-scale American producers to threaten Canadian jobs and the communities that rely on them a second time.”

The APAA claims that primary aluminum exports from Canada have “surged” since the lifting of U.S. tariffs, which breaches an agreement struck between the parties. The “surge” claim is entirely arbitrary, and based on trade flows over a short period. The APAA’s claim also fails to account for headwinds facing the industry, including the economic downswing caused by COVID-19 along with a dramatic rise in non-Canadian foreign imports from places like China and Russia over the past decade.

The reported policy move comes even after the main U.S. industry group, The Aluminum Association, stated in a May 2020 letter to Lighthizer that “even if every U.S. aluminum smelter was operating at full capacity, aluminum manufacturers would still require a mix of domestic and imported primary aluminum as well as secondary production to meet the demands of U.S. manufacturers and consumers for aluminum products.”

“What the APAA neglects to mention is that the U.S. aluminum industry has a domestic capacity problem that is leading American manufacturers to look elsewhere for their aluminum,” wrote Dias.

Dias also warned Trudeau that strong reciprocal measures may be warranted and must be considered should the U.S. act against Canada’s aluminum sector.