Trade Committee hears impacts of steel and aluminum tariffs from Industry Dept. officials

Steel and aluminum prices have jumped 30 to 40 percent due to cross-border tariffs, the Department of Industry yesterday told the Commons trade committee. Officials did not detail the impact on consumer costs and factory layoffs.

“Higher steel and aluminum prices increase costs for many users,” said Assistant Deputy Industry Minister Paul Halucha; “The impact of the current North American trade climate on steel and aluminum goes well beyond the companies and the workers in this industry.”

U.S. and Canadian tariffs are 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The duties were left untouched in a tentative United States-Mexico-Canada trade pact signed September 30.

“The benchmark monthly steel price in North America has reached heights not seen previously since 2008,” said Halucha. “Since the beginning of the year the benchmark price for U.S. Midwest hot-rolled coil has increased from US$729 per ton in January to a peak of over $1,000 in July. From that high, the benchmark has fallen to US$956 per ton. This is in contrast to 2017 and 2016 when the average monthly price was $680 and $571 per ton respectively.”

“The all-in price of aluminum has surged more than 40 percent,” said Halucha. “There is no doubt the price increases are a result of the ongoing trade action.”

“There appears to be no end in sight,” said Conservative MP Colin Carrie (Oshawa, Ont.). “Are you worried about the long-term impact this is going to have on our Canadian steel and aluminum industries?”

“I’m an optimistic person by nature,” replied Assistant Deputy Minister Halucha. The committee was told the Department of Employment has contacted more than 120 employers in the trade with “known or announced layoffs”, but did not elaborate.

“It’s killing Canadian businesses,” said MP Tracey Ramsey (Essex, Ont.), New Democrat trade critic. “Once they close, the chances of them being able to come back again are very, very slim. We are in an emergency situation.”

Steel and aluminum mills employ 33,000 Canadians, by official estimate