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Canada’s trade union-backed Liberal government clamps down on steel and aluminum imports

Canada’s trade union-backed Liberal government clamps down on steel and aluminum imports

OTTAWA: As trade war develops between the United States and China, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is taking steps to solidarize Canada with, and line up behind, the Trump administration. Late last month, following a telephone call with Trump in which Trudeau pledged to do more to clamp down on steel “dumping,” Canada’s prime minster unveiled protectionist measures to block cheap steel and aluminum imports from entering Canada.

After Trump deigned to grant Canada a temporary exemption, the USW turned its sights on the Trudeau government, demanding it follow Trump’s lead in cracking down on “unfair trade.” This included a call for the USW to be given a role in enforcing economic nationalist policies aimed at boosting Canadian-based companies and pushing the burden of job losses onto workers in other countries.

Trudeau, who had earlier boasted about the contribution Canadian-made steel and aluminum make to US warplanes and tanks, said the measures were designed to defend not just Canadian, but “North American industry.”

In the little more than four weeks since Trump announced his steel and aluminum tariffs, the dispute with Beijing has escalated into a full-scale trade war, with Washington now threatening to impose tariffs on $100 billion worth of Chinese goods. US trade and economic experts admit that the true aim of this economic offensive is to prevent Beijing from realizing its goal of becoming a leader in the production of high-tech goods.

Trump’s tariffs are not only bringing Washington into conflict with China, but also with its erstwhile European allies, which are no longer willing to subordinate their own imperialist interests to those of Washington. Led by Germany, the European Union has demonstratively announced that it will retaliate with its own protectionist policies if European companies are impacted by the aluminum and steel tariffs or other US protectionist policies.

The unions are playing a central role in portraying these dangerous developments as positive for working people. A central element in the Trudeau government’s new crackdown on steel and aluminum imports was the announcement of the creation of steel and aluminum trade monitoring committees comprised of government, industry and union officials.

If the pro-big business character of these new committees and their role in helping enforce Trump’s tariffs and upholding the alliance between Canadian and US imperialism was not already clear enough, Trudeau spelt it out in a statement. “Our businesses and workers rely on our integrated industries” it declared, “and we will take strong action to defend and protect our most important trade relationships. Canada will not be used as a backdoor into other North American markets.”

In accordance with the USW’s demand, the Liberal government is also granting the USW and other unions the ability to participate in, and initiate, “trade remedy” cases before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.