Ottawa in talks with steel, aluminum industries about possible aid

A coils of steel is moved by a crane at the Direct Strip Production Complex at Essar Steel Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. The Trump administration has hit Canada with big steel and aluminum tariffs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Federal officials are having talks with steel and aluminum industries about possible aid, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains confirmed Monday.

READ MORE: Trudeau calls tariffs ‘insulting’ while Trump aide labels it as ‘family quarrel’

All options are being looked at as the industries grapple with new tariffs imposed by the U.S., Bains said.

“We will do whatever we can to help protect steel and aluminum industries,” said Bains.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week unveiled a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum, citing national security reasons. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the move.

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This weekend, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa was mulling an aid package which could be similar to the support for softwood lumber producers that Ottawa unveiled in June 2017 after Washington imposed tariffs.

Trudeau met with members of the Canadian Steel Producers Association Monday afternoon to discuss the tariffs.

Canada is the No. 1 steel exporter to the United States. Some 84 per cent of its steel exports, worth $9.0 billion, were sent south last year, according to Statistics Canada.

READ MORE: ‘Seriously?’: Chrystia Freeland on U.S. tariffs, Trump’s claim Canada is security threat

It accounts for about 22,000 direct jobs and supports 100,000 jobs indirectly, said the Canadian Steel Producers Association.

Canada retaliated against the steel and aluminum tariffs by proposing tariff on C$16.6 billion worth of U.S. exports and said it would challenge the U.S. move through the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

Trade ties between Canada and the United States have soured since Trump took power in January 2017.

WATCH: Canada threatening U.S. with tariffs on nearly $13B worth of goods

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Canada threatening U.S. with tariffs on nearly $13B worth of goods – Jun 1, 2018

In June 2017, Ottawa announced an C$867 million package for softwood lumber producers.

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Freeland said the government was pondering whether to do the same for steel and aluminum producers.

READ MORE: What U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs mean for Canadians — and their wallets

“It is something that we are in intense discussion with the industry, with unions and with the provinces about,” Freeland told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired on Saturday when asked about a possible aid package.

“It was very important for the government to stand up for the (lumber) industry … in the face of unfair tariffs and I want to assure the workers of the steel and aluminum industries, and companies in those industries, that the government of Canada will support them,” added Freeland, who gave no details.

— Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by David Gregorio. With files from Global News

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