Investing in Domestic Aluminum Industry Is Best Response to U.S. Tariffs

MONTREAL – The best approach to countering U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports is to invest funds raised from retaliatory tariffs to better position the domestic aluminum industry for the future, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

The Canadian government intends to impose countermeasures targeting $3.6 billion in American exports to Canada. Those funds should be invested in modernizing Canadian aluminum plants and increasing production and processing capacity, the USW is urging the federal government. The government is consulting with stakeholders until September 6 regarding the approach it will take on countermeasures to the U.S. tariffs.

"By investing in the future and creating new, long-term jobs here, we can hope to emerge from the current crisis in a positive light,” said Alexandre Fréchette, representative for the USW’s aluminum smelting sector.

“The idea is not to give a blank cheque to the multinational aluminum producers. The idea is to invest in developing our aluminum industry here and to ensure there are real benefits for our regions,” Fréchette said.

“Quebec's aluminum sector is already performing well and is among the greenest in the world. But to maintain and create jobs, we need to invest now to stay on the cutting edge."

The USW, which represents thousands of aluminum workers in Quebec, welcomes yesterday’s announcement of a $5-million federal investment to help Canada’s aluminum industry better trace the origins of aluminum used in the country.

The USW characterizes the announcement as an “hors d'oeuvre” while aluminum producers, workers and their communities anxiously await the government’s comprehensive response to the U.S. tariffs.

"The real test will be in September. That’s when we will be able to measure the government’s commitment to invest in the future of the aluminum sector," said Fréchette.

Uncertainty in the aluminum sector has adversely affected investment proposals in Quebec, noted Sylvain Maltais, President of USW Local 9490 at the Alma smelter, and Éric Drolet, President of USW Local 9700 at the Bécancour smelter.

“In recent years, several investment projects have been put on hold by aluminum smelters, particularly due to the uncertainty of the trade dispute with the United States. Governments must help secure and create jobs in this sector. Ottawa must seize this opportunity to give the industry a boost,” Maltais and Drolet said in a joint statement.

The United Steelworkers, affiliated with the FTQ, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec. It represents more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

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