Unifor urges Trudeau to escalate tariff response

August 17, 2020

Canada’s aluminum workers welcomed the federal government’s initial response to unfair U.S. tariffs but say more can be done.

“It was encouraging to see swift action from the government in response to Trump’s bogus tariffs,” said Marty McIlwrath, president of Unifor Local 2301. “But a bully only understands force, and Canada’s final response to unfair tariffs must inflict maximum damage on U.S. industry to get Trump’s attention.”

U.S. tariffs on Canada’s export of P1020 aluminum are set to be implemented on August 16. On August 7, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the government would respond with countermeasures soon. Details on the counter-tariffs are limited so far, but Unifor insists the Government of Canada must take an aggressive position.

“The objective is to get Trump’s unfair tariffs removed immediately, so our response must be tough,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec Director.

Unifor has published detailed review of the issues behind the ongoing dispute, which goes back as far as 2017.

Without any direct evidence to support their claim, the American Primary Aluminum Association (APAA)— which represents only two aluminum companies—claims a “surge” in Canadian aluminum imports has caused aluminum prices to collapse.

In reality, the Canadian share of U.S. primary aluminum imports has been falling. Canada’s share of domestic US consumption of primary non-alloyed aluminum has fallen from nearly 50 per cent in 2010 to 43 per cent in 2019, while the share of non-Canadian foreign imports has skyrocketed. Unifor says that global economic conditions have eroded the American capacity to produce aluminum, and massive increases in Russian and Chinese imports have made up the difference.