The president of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce will be raising concerns about Canada’s competition with the Chinese steel industry before a House of Commons committee Tuesday.
The chamber’s Matt Marchand said China dumping steel into Canada has been a significant issue for the country and the Windsor area.
The problem, according to Marchand, is Chinese companies do not follow the same labour and environmental regulations as Canadians and they have a surplus of steel which they are selling to other countries at much lower costs.
“They’re not a market economy and asking our entrepreneurs and business community to compete against China is something that I don’t think we should be asking them to do in the current context,” he said.
The federal standing committee on international trade is working on a report on the ability of Canada’s steel industry to compete internationally. Marchand said Canada is at a disadvantage because Chinese steel companies are essentially owned by their government.
“With all the power they have, they don’t respond to market forces, they’re not interested in profits or losses,” said Marchand. “Basically, it’s a government department that’s manufacturing steel.”
Locally, the Harrow community in Essex is home to home to steel producer Atlas Tube. According to Marchand, they employ over 200 people, have exports of $250 million per year and generate $1 million in taxes for the town.
“Why should we have one set of rules for Atlas Tube and then another set of rules for Chinese companies that don’t play by those rules?” he asked.
The chamber has previously brought this issue up with its counterparts in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie. They have sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and received national support at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in September.
Essex MP Tracey Ramsey, the vice-chair of the trade committee, helped set up the meeting for the chamber. She made the motion at the committee level to begin this study, which she expects to be completed in late spring.
“We are not the only country to be a target of this, but other countries have improved their trade remedy systems so they can address this in a better way and we are looking for Canada to do the same,” said the NDP’s trade critic.
Canada has become an “easy target” for the Chinese steel industry, said Ramsey, and the government should catch up to what Australia and the U.S. have done to limit the effects of dumping.
“Across all party lines, there has been a serious understanding of how important this is to the Canadian steel industry,” she said. “For myself, I just continue to highlight the importance of jobs that exist in my riding of Essex.”
Michael Cautillo, president and CEO of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, said in November 2015 all 22,000 tonnes of steel for the upcoming Gordie Howe International Bridge will come from the U.S. and Canada.
Ramsey said it’s important for the federal government to lead by example on all of its infrastructure projects in this context.
Marchand said he is also concerned the federal government is entertaining the idea of giving marketing economy status to China through the World Trade Organization. That would “give them even more access in terms of trade,” he said.
Governments of both the U.S. and China are taking “a very aggressive stance with their business community,” and Canada needs to think about how it will compete, said Marchand.
“I guess we’re going to be asking the question to the Canadian government: ‘To what extent are we going to aggressively defend Canadian businesses in the context of China dumping steel?'”
Tom Morrison is a Windsor-based journalist. @TomMorrison12 on Twitter