Unifor Local 444 President, David Cassidy and Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland in Windsor November 13, 2018. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

Freeland updates Unifor leaders about USMCA

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has told union leaders in Windsor that Canada will lift its tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum if the Americans reciprocate.

The tariffs came up Tuesday during a meeting with union officials at the Unifor Local 444/200 Hall where Freeland offered an update on the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy says the union is very concerned about the tariffs’ impact on the auto industry, especially after Ford announced it had lost $1-billion to tariffs since their implementation.

“10,500 workers we represent in Unifor in the steel and aluminum industry, it could be a big negativity to us,” he told reporters afterwards. “She told us very clearly that we are not bargaining. The bargaining part is done.”

After the meeting, Freeland told reporters Canada considers the tariff issue separate.

“We have been consistent on this from the first moment the U.S. started talking about 232 steel and aluminum tariffs that this had nothing to do with our NAFTA negotiations,” said Freeland. “That has been a very important position for Canada. We are going to maintain that.”

Washington issued the tariffs under section 232 in NAFTA arguing Canadian steel and aluminum presented a national security threat to the U.S. Freeland has repeatedly said the idea that Canadian imports are a threat is absurd, and Canada has complained to the World Trade Organization.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey makes her maiden question in the House of Commons, December 11, 2015. (Courtesy of Tracey Ramsey.)

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey makes her maiden question in the House of Commons, December 11, 2015. (Courtesy of Tracey Ramsey.)

NDP trade critic and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey has been critical of Ottawa’s stand on the tariffs, and said the federal government must do more to protect manufacturing jobs.

“I hear the minister say that these sit outside the agreement but in Donald Trump’s world, everything is on the table,” said Ramsey.

She said she does not believe Canada should sign USMCA until the tariffs are lifted.