June 11, 2018 6:18 pm
Updated: June 11, 2018 6:36 pm

‘That will make us totally uncompetitive’: Unifor president on how auto tariffs would affect Canadian industry

An assembly line worker at the General Motors Assembly plant in Oshawa works on a car on Friday, December 16, 2011.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
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The president of a union representing more than 40,000 auto and auto parts workers is condemning the resurfaced threats of tariffs on one of Canada’s largest exports.

In late May, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that his administration would investigate tariffs on car and auto parts imports, just days before he imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. At this time, Trump has mulled imposing duties of 25 per cent of auto imports under section 262 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Trump brought the threats back into focus with a tweet he posted following the G7 summit over the weekend.

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On London Live with Mike Stubbs, Unifor president Jerry Dias told 980 CFPL what the tariffs could mean for Canada’s auto sector.

“If you start putting a 25 per cent tariff on imported vehicles to the United States, that will make us totally uncompetitive,” said Dias.

“There’s not a lot of our assembly plants that actually ship anywhere besides the United States.”

“It will not only be a huge impact on Canadians and our industry, it will hurt the United States as well,” said Dias, adding that 65 per cent of parts put into Canadian-manufactured vehicles come from the United States.

“So, what does [Trump] say to all those auto parts workers that lose their jobs? ‘Sorry about that?’ It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Dias added that consumers north of the border could see increases in vehicle prices relative to imposed tariffs. For example, if Trump implemented the previously mentioned 25 per cent tariff, vehicle prices would increase by that same percentage.

READ MORE: Chances that Trump will impose auto tariffs ‘reasonably good:’ U.S. trade expert

According to Dias, Trump is targeting the wrong country. Dias listed Japan, South Korea and Europe as responsible for dumping millions of vehicles into the North American market.

“If the issue was about wrestling back some of the 4.5 million vehicles dumped into our markets so that we could have fair trade, I’d understand the argument,” Dias said. “To pick on Canada, where trade in auto is equal, makes absolutely no sense.”

READ MORE: Consumers will feel effects of U.S. tariffs instantly: London Chamber of Commerce

For the Unifor president, the recent trade war with Canada is an attempt by Trump to show his political prowess ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in the November.

“If you look at the primaries that have unfolded over the last six months, he’s lost every one. So he’s in a battle for his life.”

As for the North American Free Trade Agreement, Dias believes no deal will be made before the midterm elections.

WATCH: Trudeau says Canadians ‘will not be pushed around’ over U.S. tariffs

On June 1, a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum imports coming from Canada, Mexico and Europe took effect.

In retaliation, Canada announced plans to impose dollar-for-dollar tariff countermeasures on up to $16.6 billion worth of U.S imports. The Trudeau government plans to impose these tariffs by July 1.

Members of parliament of all political stripes have voiced their support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to continue to stand firm against current tariffs, as well as Trump’s threats against automakers.

There is still no official word on whether or not Trump will in fact go through with implementing the tariffs.

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