PM to work­ers: ‘We had your backs’

Trudeau as­sures steel, alu­minum work­ers dur­ing tour of fac­to­ries


MON­TREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he told U.S. President Don­ald Trump dur­ing a re­cent phone call that slap­ping du­ties on Cana­dian steel and alu­minum would hurt on­go­ing NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“I told the president that im­pos­ing tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum does not help with re­gard to NAFTA,” Trudeau said Mon­day. “It has a neg­a­tive im­pact on the NAFTA talks.

“To im­pose tar­iffs that would hurt work­ers on both sides of the bor­der — it’s not like that that we’ll ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter NAFTA deal.”

Trudeau also said it was in part due to the hard work of Cana­dian of­fi­cials that Trump ex­empted Canada from the tar­iffs last week.

“Make no mis­take — this was a true Team Canada effort and it will con­tinue to be, mov­ing for­ward,” he told a news con­fer­ence at the Rio Tinto Al­can alu­minum plant in Sague­nay, about 250 kilo­me­tres north of Que­bec City.

The prime minister is on a cross-coun­try tour of alu­minum and steel fac­to­ries to demon­strate his govern­ment’s sup­port for work­ers in light of po­ten­tial threats to those in­dus­tries from the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Other stops will in­clude Hamil­ton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Regina.

Asked what he would do if Trump changed course and slapped du­ties on Canada, Trudeau said, “we’ll see when we get to that point.”

“But I ac­cept what the president said,” Trudeau added, “that as long as there is a free-trade deal in North Amer­ica there won’t be tar­iffs.”

Trump said he would tem­po­rar­ily ex­empt Canada and Mex­ico from global steel and alu­minium tar­iffs while the three coun­tries ne­go­ti­ate a new NAFTA deal.

“The ex­emp­tion rep­re­sented a pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion but we still have a lot more work to do,” Trudeau told the room full of alu­minum work­ers. “We had your backs last week and we al­ways will.”

Canada is the United States’ largest for­eign provider of steel and alu­minum, with about 85 per cent of Cana­dian ex­ports be­ing di­rected to that coun­try.

Que­bec Premier Philippe Couil­lard spoke to re­porters along­side Trudeau and said he wouldn’t ac­cept any un­due pres­sure on the prov­ince’s dairy farm­ers as a po­ten­tial com­pro­mise in the steel and alu­minum con­flict.

Trump and his trade of­fi­cials have sig­nalled in the past they are look­ing for more ac­cess to Canada’s dairy mar­ket within a rene­go­ti­ated NAFTA deal.

Que­bec has a sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem re­gard­ing dairy, poul­try and eggs, which imposes steep tar­iffs on those prod­ucts en­ter­ing the coun­try.

“On our end we are go­ing to vig­or­ously de­fend sup­ply man­age­ment,” Couil­lard said, adding Que­bec’s farm­ers have al­ready given up mar­ket share for other re­cently ne­go­ti­ated trade deals.


He­lene Laroche, right, oper­a­tion direc­tor AP60 tech­nol­ogy cen­tre, guides Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, cen­tre, and Que­bec Premier Philippe Couil­lard dur­ing a visit of the Rio Tinto AP60 alu­minum plant Mon­day in Sague­nay Que.

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