Graham Grant Beck

Steel safeguards a blow to construction industry

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

To prevent diversion of foreign steel products into Canada, the federal government is imposing provisional steel safeguards on imports of seven products: heavy plate, concrete reinforcing bar (rebar), energy tubular products, hot-rolled sheet, pre-painted steel, stainless steel wire and wire rod.

Beginning October 25, 2018, imports of these seven steel products will be subject to a surtax of 25 per cent, in cases where the level of imports from trading partners exceeds historical norms.

Provisional safeguards are intended to provide Canadian steel producers and workers relief from the harm caused by excessive imports of steel products into Canada. The Government is requesting that the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) conduct an inquiry to determine whether final steel safeguards are warranted. The provisional safeguards will be in place for 200 days pending the CITT’s findings.

On July 1, 2018, the government began applying measured reciprocal countermeasures on $16.6 billion of imports of steel, aluminum, and other products from the U.S., in response to the unjustified and counterproductive U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

The Canadian Construction Association says the construction industry has been disregarded by the Canadian government in its decision to impose provisional safeguard measures on steel products.

‘’We have been understanding while the negotiations were in progress with the US government, but the outcome is that the construction industry has been ignored. Not only do the steel and aluminium tariffs remain; these safeguards are another blow to the industry,’’ said Mary Van Buren, CCA’s president. 

The U.S.-imposed tariffs and these safeguards on the import of foreign steel will hurt the construction industry, its workers and fundamentally all Canadians by raising prices, damaging competitiveness for business and potentially delaying projects necessary for building Canada’s infrastructure.  

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) echoes the disappointment expressed by the CCA.

“The opportunity to secure relief appears well intended, however, the process is not practical,” said VRCA president Fiona Famulak. “It is unclear, administratively burdensome and does not guarantee relief. Our member companies are already running at capacity and the process represents a hurdle to their securing relief in a timely manner.”

Canada is a net-importer of certain types of steel, meaning the Canadian construction industry relies heavily on foreign steel to build our cities and infrastructure.

“Our members need to import from both the American West Coast and Asia because the cost of shipping steel from Ontario to B.C. via rail and land is more expensive than by water,” said Famulak. “The tariffs and the safeguards are therefore a double whammy for the B.C. construction industry.”

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