“You know there are literally hundreds if not thousands of jobs that are directly dependent on this industry in this province alone,” said Jeremy Harrison, the provincial minister of trade and export development.
Canada’s steel industry, breathed a slight sigh of relief last week when President Donald Trump announced that Canada and Mexico would be exempt from the United States’ new 25 per cent tariff on all steel imports.
That relief was short-lived. The President quickly transitioned, hinting that he would use those exceptions in the on-going North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.
“The president has made pretty clear that he views this as being tied to NAFTA, and the discussions and negotiations tied to that agreement, so we need to remain vigilant to make sure our industry is protected in this country,” cautioned Harrison.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid Saskatchewan steel workers a visit, part of a national tour, to reassure them the province’s $59 million industry isn’t going anywhere.
“We continue to stand up for Canada’s interests, for Canadian jobs, we know that a good deal is possible, we won’t accept a bad deal,” the Prime Minister told reporters at western Canada’s largest steel producer, Evraz.
Over 90 per cent of all provincial steel exports in 2017 went to the United States.
Trudeau said he is positive a NAFTA agreement can be reached, without steel tariffs on Canadian exports, “We know that because a good deal for everyone is possible, we’re going to get there.”
NAFTA negotiations are still underway, but the length of the process is frustrating the industry and the province.
“We would’ve liked to see more progress on those NAFTA discussions at this point, we’re heading now into the ninth negotiating round, we would’ve liked to see it wrapped up after eight,” Harrison said.
Trudeau acknowledged the time pressures around the NAFTA negotiations, adding that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is currently in the States working on the issue.