The federal government has introduced legislation that would prevent countries from dumping steel and aluminum products into the North American market.
The legislation, which passed first reading June 5 in Parliament, will allow Canada to impose one or more successive rounds of safeguard measures on some categories of steel products within a two-year period until 2021.
“It will provide (Canada) with the flexibility to prevent dumping from a foreign country,” said Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi in an interview.
For instance, if there was a “surge” of hot roll steel being imported into Canada, Tassi said it will allow Canada to get approval from the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to impose the safeguard measures against the steel and company involve.
“If that happens we want that flexibility to protect those 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in Hamilton,” she said.
Both Canada and the United States agreed to address steel dumping after both countries in May removed their own tariffs on each other's steel and aluminum products.
The United States still reserves the right to reimpose the tariffs if imports “surged” beyond typical levels. Steel tariffs by the United States remain on other countries' goods.
China has long been accused by companies and steelworkers of flooding the market with cheaper steel products.
Marvin Ryder, associate professor at McMaster University, said the legislation is “an attempt to demonstrate ‘good faith' to the U.S. administration officials who agreed to drop tariffs against Canadian steel and aluminum as long as Canada took a harder stand against countries who were trying to use Canada as a conduit to enter the U.S.
“It's a good move by (Premier Justin) Trudeau and (Finance Minister Bill) Morneau. Through I am not clear that it will be used a whole lot, he said.”
Tassi said Canada is prepared to track imports and determine if there is a “surge” to provide officials with the necessary tools to crack down on the steel dumping by other countries.
Canada had made an Order in Council that imposed safeguards on several categories of steel last fall. The Canadian International Trade Tribunal conducted an inquiry and determined that five out of the seven tariffs imposed on the products were warranted.
The order imposing the safeguards expired after the 200th day on April 28.
The June legislation temporarily removes the two-year “cooling off period” required under Section 55 (5) of the Custom Tariffs to reimpose those same measures.
Tassi is encouraging all her colleagues from Hamilton to support the federal Liberals' legislation. Less than three weeks remain in this term of Parliament before it breaks.
“It's time to put partisanship aside,” said Tassi. “I am hoping to get the support from all parties. We want to protect Canadian jobs.”
Tassi said the federal government has been holding ongoing discussions with steelworker unions and industry officials about tariffs and how to protect Canadian jobs.
Steelworkers have been highly critical of the federal Liberals for not doing enough to enforce dumping rules against countries such as South Korea and China.
United Steelworkers national director Ken Neumann stated recently that the federal government has “failed to maintain safeguards protecting Canada's steel sector from a surge in foreign imports."