(TORONTO, ON) – Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, is accusing United States President Donald Trump of holding Canada’s steel and aluminum industries hostage to extort a new North American Free Trade Agreement. The latest round of NAFTA negotiations, involving Canada, Mexico, and the US, concluded yesterday in Mexico City.
Outside of the negotiations, Trump, “plainly stated that tariffs will only come off if Canada signs a NAFTA agreement to his liking. The question now is whether the Canadian government is going to submit to trade blackmail,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
Last week, the US surprised trade partners with a plan to impose import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. Over the weekend, White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro definitively confirmed the absence of country exclusions, including Canada, the largest exporter of both steel and aluminum to the US.
Unifor has a vested interest in the tariffs.
The union has thousands of members in the steel and aluminum sectors, including 4,000 aluminum workers at Rio Tinto in British Columbia and Quebec, in addition to 40,000 auto sector members. The union has already called for the federal government to walk away from NAFTA if Canada is not excluded from tariffs.
“The Americans have come after Canada on softwood, paper, aerospace, and now steel and aluminum,” said Dias. Because of this, he said the, “US government is bargaining in bad faith.”
Ontario is a major supplier of steel and automobiles and Quebec is a key supplier of aluminum. Unifor expects sanctions to have a devastating effect on jobs in key industries and communities and could push prices up on items from cars to canned food.
Unifor reiterated its call to the federal government to take all necessary retaliatory measures to protect Canadian industries and jobs.