Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus ­čö┤Children in Peril Quarantine Families Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive

The Trump administration is considering reimposing tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada and an announcement could come by the end of the week, according to people familiar with the matter.

If Canada refuses to impose export restrictions on aluminum, the U.S. will announce Friday the reimposition of 10% tariffs on aluminum from the country and implement the tariffs by July 1, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn't public.

The announcement would come just days before the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal enters into force at the start of July. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has expressed concern about recent struggles by American aluminum producers, which have seen sales drop and all-in prices sink as demand evaporated amid the global pandemic.

Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee in a hearing last week that recent surges in metal imports from North American neighbors are "of genuine concern to us now," and that his office was looking at the issue.

"I would say there have been surges on steel and aluminum, substantially from Canada, some from Mexico, and it is something that we're looking at and [are] talking to both Mexico and Canada about," he told the panel's top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa.

A spokesman for the trade representative didn't respond to an emailed request for comment. A spokeswoman for Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in an emailed statement that Canadian exports don't harm the U.S. market.

"The free flow of goods and services, including aluminum, is important for jobs and economic growth in both of our countries," her press secretary, Katherine Cuplinskas, said in an email to BNN Bloomberg television. "We firmly believe that our aluminum exports do not harm the U.S. market. We are emphasizing this in our ongoing conversations with our American partners."

Under the May 2019 agreement, which resulted in initial tariffs being lifted, Canada has to limit its retaliation to the U.S. metals sector and cannot hit American agriculture, Lighthizer told Grassley.

The three U.S. aluminum producers -- Alcoa Corp., Century Aluminum Co. and Magnitude 7 Metals LLC -- disagree on whether tariffs should be reimposed.

The American Primary Aluminum Association, which represents Century Aluminum and Magnitude 7 Metals, has asked Lighthizer to reimpose a 10% tariff on imports of Canadian aluminum, saying an increase in metal coming from the country has caused the price to collapse.

The Aluminum Association of the U.S., which represents Alcoa Corp., Rio Tinto Group and dozens of other aluminum-parts makers, argues instead that imports are virtually unchanged since 2017.

Alcoa Chief Financial Officer William Oplinger said at a recent virtual bank conference that China's overcapacity subsidized by the government is the real problem, and that he supports free trade with "those who trade freely, especially the Canadians."

The benchmark price of aluminum traded in London is down 12% this year, and the price paid to ship metal to the U.S. Midwest -- a critical part of the all-in price for domestic producers -- is down more than 40%.

Aluminum producers are struggling along with other businesses amid the pandemic.

An agreement reached between the three North American countries in May 2019 included a monitoring and a mechanism to prevent increases in exports, but also stipulated that tariffs on metals could be reimposed "if surges in imports of specific steel and aluminum products occur."


Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.