The federal government says it plans to seek industry input before it decides whether or not to impose tariffs on steel entering Canada from offshore suppliers.
The tariffs could be imposed under section 55 of the Customs Tariff Act, which allows the government to impose an “emergency” tariff quickly, before providing a rationale. Called a “‘safeguard” measure, this kind of tariff has never been applied before.
The tariffs would be applied to plate, pipe, hot-rolled sheet and concrete rebar steel, said Finance Minister Bill Morneau. But Ottawa plans to allow 15 days for comment from the industry, including steel companies and users, before making a decision, Morneau said.
Canadian steel makers have been urging Ottawa to impose a safeguard tariff since the US imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum at the beginning of June. They’re worried that offshore steel makers could ship their product to Canada, where it could be processed enough to become exempt from US tariffs before being shipped south of the border. The safeguard tariffs would demonstrate to the US that Canada was not willingly becoming a platform to help steelmakers evade US tariffs on their product. It would also prevent a flood of cheap offshore steel from denting the profits of Canadian steel makers.
On the negative side, keeping cheap offshore steel out of the country could hurt employment here. The Canadian Coalition of Construction Steel says the safeguard action could lead to the loss of as many as 60,000 Canadian construction jobs as it would drive steel prices up and cause shortages, impacting construction projects.
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