For B.C.’s forestry sector, the latest round of American protectionist trade sanctions against steel and aluminum means getting to welcome a new group of targeted business to a club they wish they didn’t want.

“I don’t think it’s helpful at all to have more sectors of the economy hit by protectionist tariffs,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council, the province’s key lobbying group for trade issues.

While the U.S. tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, extended to Canada, the European Union and Mexico on May 31, are relatively new, B.C.’s forestry sector has been in the grip of a more activist U.S. trade policy for more than a year in its decades-long dispute with the American industry.

With Rio Tinto’s 420,000-tonne-a-year aluminum smelter added as a target for tariffs, Yurkovich said “we’re getting some friends with us in this fight.”

“It’s not a great thing from our perspective,” Yurkovich said. “We wish more sensible heads were prevailing on the U.S. side so we could get back to modernizing the NAFTA agreement.”

In B.C., it was first lumber in 2017 that faced complaints from the U.S. side of unfair trade, an argument that goes back decades.

This year, Canadian newsprint has also been subject to an unfair trade complaint, with corresponding duties, and now aluminum faces tariffs, increasing the unease for 1,000 smelter workers in B.C.’s northwest.

The province of Quebec offered its aluminum and steel producers $100 million in loans and guarantees this week to help cushion an expected slowdown in production. Based on feedback, companies told the Quebec government they won’t be able to pass the tariff cost to customers.

B.C. hasn’t received any requests for help, said Bruce Ralston, minister of jobs, trade and technology, though the province has made “an open offer of assistance.”

Ralston said Rio Tinto’s senior management in B.C. …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Business


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