HAMILTON, Ontario (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s chief executive said on Tuesday the company was not seeking Canadian government aid as the domestic steel industry faces uncertainty after U.S. President Donald Trump provided temporary tariff relief on steel imports.
Sean Donnelly, who heads Canada’s largest steel manufacturer, added that the government must put resources in place to ensure cheap steel is not diverted to Canada after Trump decided last week to impose a 25 percent tariffs on steel imports.
Asked if his company would seek government aid, Donnelly replied: “No.”
Canada is the biggest supplier of steel and aluminum to the United States but the steel sector accounted for only 22,000 direct jobs and represented 2 percent of exports last year.
Donnelly spoke to Reuters as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the steel city of Hamilton to reassure workers and meet with company CEOs, as part of his week-long tour to defend Canadian jobs. On Monday, Trudeau called Trump to stress the need to preserve cross-border supply chains.
Behind closed doors, Trudeau and industry representatives spoke about the issue of cheap steel entering Canada, but did not get into specifics, Canadian Steel Producers Association (CSPA) President Joseph Galimberti said.
Speaking to reporters, Trudeau said he was aware of concerns that countries now faced with tariffs could try to get their steel to the North American market through Canada and the government was working with the industry and United States to prevent that.
“That is a concern that we share with the Americans and we’re going to keep ensuring that Canadian steel is Canadian steel,” Trudeau said before shaking hands and taking selfies with the assembled steelworkers.
Galimberti said the meeting with Trudeau was an “important affirmation” that the government’s months-long involvement in the issue would continue.
Trump has linked permanent exemption to the successful renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, making the industry nervous.
The North American industry is heavily integrated, with raw materials, steel and parts crossing the U.S.-Canadian border several times before a finished product such as a vehicle is sold to consumers. About 65 percent of the Hamilton port’s tonnage is iron ore and coal used to make steel.
Hamilton, about 75 km (47 miles) southwest of Toronto, has a population of 700,000 and houses Dofasco’s mill, coking and finishing operations at Stelco and a collection of smaller operations that directly employ about 10,000 people in the city.
Reporting by Allison Martell; Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver and Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Grant McCool, Peter Cooney and Susan Thomas