A major manufacturer of aluminum and stainless steel tanks for trailers is about to get a jolt to its bottom line, with the Trudeau government imposing a counter-tariff on all U.S. imports of aluminum and steel materials.
For Tremcar, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, that means its costs are going up by 25 per cent, and profits could be cut by almost half.
“It’s going to be a major concern for us, no doubt,” Tremcar president Daniel Tremblay told Global News during a tour of the company’s plant.
The company purchases stainless steel and aluminum sheets from U.S. suppliers and uses the sheets to build the container tanks to transport chemicals, fuels or dairy products. Tremcar builds 100 trailer tanks a month — an average of five a day on a five-day work week — and exports 40 per cent of the tanks to the U.S.
But as of July 1, a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports from the U.S. and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum takes effect. It’s a countermeasure the Trudeau government is taking against moves taken by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this year.
Tremblay says he understands the prime minister wants to hit back at the U.S. president, but Tremblay says there are no stainless steel plants in Canada that can sell the type of metal he needs to manufacture the tanks.
Purchasing from Europe or Asia would put him in violation of NAFTA, so Tremblay says he will now be forced to pay the additional surtax and absorb the expenses.
“He (Trudeau) should be a bit more surgical on those tariffs. Don’t put the tariffs on something you don’t produce in Canada,” Tremblay said.
His company has written a letter to the federal finance minister requesting an exemption.
So far there has been no reply. On Tuesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau hinted at offering Canadian companies some form of financial compensation, but that’s all.
“We absolutely are going to stand behind Canadian businesses who are challenged by these tariffs,” Bill Morneau said from Ottawa at a press conference.
Almost 450 people work at Tremcar, most of them at the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu plant.
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Tremblay doesn’t anticipate any imminent layoffs, but he argues what the prime minister is doing is counterproductive.
“Trudeau is not helping us at all. He’s going to create unemployment here and then we will have to export jobs to the U.S.,” he said.
For now, Tremblay says he will have to absorb the costs and buy materials from Mexico, but that decision also brings with it additional expenses.