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Windsor Business Man Likes Prospective Tariffs, Offers Staff A Bonus

While Republicans are both privately and publicly warning U.S. President Donald Trump against imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum, a Windsor-based businessman welcomes the prospect.

Barry Zekelman of Zekelman Industries issued a company-wide email last week telling his employees they will receive a $1,000 annual bonus as soon as the policy takes effect, and for as long as it remains in effect.

The email reads, “The Section 232 investigation confirmed what we have known for decades: that the domestic steel industry has been victimized by unfairly traded and dumped foreign products and the resulting damage has been both massive and a threat to impair national security.

“The policies announced will have a tremendous positive impact on our ability to compete and thrive. The playing field is being levelled and WE WILL WIN A FAIR FIGHT.”

Zekelman welcomes the tariff to help prevent illegal steel dumping from countries that have poor environmental and labour standards.

“Finally someone is taking a stand that will deal with it, hopefully once and for all, and close all the loop-holes and back doors that go on with circumvention. I encourage Canada to do the same thing and really help our steel industry,” says Zekelman.

He operates manufacturing businesses on both sides of the border, including Atlas Tube in Harrow.

His voice appears to be among the few touting the benefits of the proposed tariffs, 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imported into the U.S.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans fear other countries will retaliate triggering a trade war.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Trump Monday night to express his concerns after the President suggested Canada and Mexico would only be exempt if North American Free Trade Agreement talks resulted in what he called a fair deal. The Canadian government considers the issues separate, and although the phone conversation was said to be cordial, it did not change Trump’s mind.

The seventh round of NAFTA talks wrapped up Monday in Mexico City.

Zekelman says he believes Trump is using the tariff as a bargaining chip in NAFTA negotiations and ultimately a deal will be reached to exempt Canada from the tariff.

“I do think Canada is a good trading partner and I think he’s using it as leverage to get a NAFTA agreement done quicker,” says Zekelman.

If Canada is not exempt from the steel tariff he says it could have impacts on the steel industry here. Zekelman says it may devalue the Canadian dollar, and result in some price adjustments for Canadian steel. But he doesn’t see any layoffs, at least in his company, as a result.