August 13, 2018 / 10:26 PM / 3 months ago

Canada finance minister at steel mill Tuesday amid talk of new tariff steps

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will make an announcement at steelmaker ArcelorMittal’s Dofasco plant in Hamilton on Tuesday, raising expectations that Canada could propose new tariffs or quotas to protect the industry.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau listens to a question during a news conference following a meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

The Department of Finance said in a release that Morneau would also meet with local business leaders in Hamilton, the heart of Canada’s steel industry.

The government said previously that it was considering a safeguard action to protect steel producers from imports flowing to Canada since the United States imposed tariffs in March.

The department declined to comment on the specifics of Morneau’s announcement.

Safeguards are emergency measures allowed under international trade law to respond to a sudden surge in imports. In some cases tariffs or quotas can be imposed on a temporary basis, before investigations are complete.

Jesse Goldman, a trade lawyer with Borden Ladner Gervais representing a new industry group, the Canadian Coalition for Construction Steel, said senior government officials had advised him that Morneau would announce a 15 day consultation period on safeguards.

Goldman said the proposed safeguard would cover rebar, steel plate, steel pipe used by the energy industry, prepainted steel, wire rod, stainless steel wire and hot rolled coil.

Goldman said the group does not oppose safeguards in general, but does oppose provisional safeguards, measures that could go into effect before an investigation is complete.

“We appreciate the government consulting and making sure that they get evidence. We acknowledge that the government hasn’t made a decision yet,” he said. “We are going to strongly encourage the minister to refer the matter to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal for a full safeguard inquiry.”

The United States imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum on March 23. While Canada was initially exempt, Canadian steel producers warned that U.S. measures would divert cheap steel into Canada. A Reuters analysis found that imports pipe used by the energy industry spiked in the spring.

The European Union announced its own safeguards in July, a combination of quotas and tariffs on 23 steel product categories.

The steel sector employs about 22,000 workers in Canada, including about 10,000 in Hamilton, at Dofasco’s plant, Stelco’s finishing operations and a number of smaller companies.

Canada has already imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S.-made steel and other goods.

Reporting by Allison Martell

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