Construction steel coalition warns against new restrictions on imported products
The Canadian Coalition for Construction Steel (CCCS) is urging the federal government to make an evidence-based decision on any new action on imported steel products, warning changes could create steel shortages for the Canadian construction industry, impact major building projects, and put over 60,000 jobs at risk in the construction sector alone.
The government had previously announced that it was considering whether to impose new trade measures known as "safeguards," limiting steel imports by way of tariffs and/or quotas. The government announced today that it will conduct 15 days of formal consultations before making any decision.
Following Ottawa's announcement, Jesse Goldman, legal counsel to CCCS, said: "We had urged the Government of Canada to engage in broad-based consultations before taking any new action, and we look forward to engaging constructively on this critical issue. We are confident that when the government has all the evidence, it will conclude that steel production in Canada is not at risk. Even if that changes at some point, there are already ample restrictions for unfairly traded steel."
Goldman says that while it is important to keep Canada's steel mills in business, "we are certain that - in the broader public interest of all Canadians - the government will make an evidence-based decision that balances the interests of producers and users. No government would put in peril the country's construction sector that is vital to the national economy, employing nearly 1.2 million Canadians from coast to coast, including 500,000 unionized tradespeople." Goldman adds that any safeguards need to ensure an adequate supply of construction steel.
Stability of supply has long been vital to the construction industry, as the mills in Canada have the capacity to supply only about 50 per cent of domestic demand for construction steel. Historically, roughly half the balance has come from the U.S., and the rest from outside North America.
Supply issues for construction steel are particularly acute in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, due to prohibitive overland transportation costs from Canadian mills located mainly in Ontario and Quebec. About 90 per cent of construction steel used in B.C. comes from the U.S. or Asia, and all of Newfoundland's supply is foreign.
This year, the tariff war with Canada started by the Trump administration curtailed the flow of American construction steel into Canada, creating shortages in this country and driving up prices by as much as 40 per cent. Any move now to further restrict imports from other countries through safeguards could turn the current shortage into a supply crisis for the construction industry and its workers.
Finally, members of the CCCS are confident the coming consultations will demonstrate that the Government's further restricting the supply of construction steel would be highly counterproductive, driving up the construction costs of its own infrastructure projects.
The CCCS represents major users, suppliers, fabricators, service centres, and importers of construction steel from across Canada. The CCCS is supported by national and provincial construction associations, engineering companies, builders, trade associations, and labour unions, which depend on the timely, adequate, and affordable supply of steel for a sustainable Canadian construction sector.