Stelco pushes PM for help in dealing with ‘changing landscape’ for steel

Stelco reported surge in revenues in the final quarter of last year, despite 25% tariffs

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Executive Chairman of Stelco Inc. Alan Kestenbaum in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, April 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian steel producer Stelco is looking for more support from the federal government as the country’s steel and aluminum producers grapple with punishing U.S. tariffs imposed on exports of their products south of the border.

Stelco Holdings Inc., president and executive chairman Alan Kestenbaum met with Justin Trudeau in Ottawa Thursday.

While he thanked the prime minister for the government’s support of the metals industry since the imposition of American tariffs last year, Kestenbaum said steel producers are now facing new pressures.

Stelco reported a surge in income and revenues in the final quarter of last year, despite the 25 per cent tariffs on steel imported from Canada that the Trump administration imposed last June.

The company reported net income of $108 million on revenue of $648 million in the three months ending Dec. 31, compared with $16 million of income and revenues of $452 million during the same period in 2017.

READ MORE: U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum could be gone in weeks, ambassador says

But the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) issued a report last week that could see Canadian import restrictions lifted on some steel products.

The provisional safeguards announced in October, designed to shield domestic producers from a flood of imports into Canada resulting from the U.S. tariffs, were considered by the World Trade Organization as emergency measures and are set to expire in about a month’s time.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau issued emergency import restrictions on seven products, arguing that they posed a serious threat to Canada’s steel industry.

The CITT report, issued April 3, ruled the safeguards were warranted on just two of the seven products.

The report is not binding on Morneau, who can choose to ignore some or all of the findings and make the safeguards permanent.

“The measures that were put in place, the actions that were put in place, have enabled Stelco and other steel producers to really be able to operate well in this very, very difficult environment,” Kestenbaum said as he sat with Trudeau in the prime minister’s West Block office.

“Today we’re here to talk about a changing landscape.”

Kestenbaum suggested he was looking to Trudeau for help in preserving jobs in Canada’s steel industry.

The prime minister told Kestenbaum his government is focused on supporting the steel industry and its workers as they continue to face what Trudeau described as “punitive” and “illegitimate” tariffs.

Trudeau said officials from his government have been meeting “almost daily” with U.S. officials in attempts to have the duties lifted.

In the meantime, the government is having discussions on how to support the metal industries, he said.

The Canadian Press

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