Canada, Mexico, EU Hit with Aluminum, Steel Tariffs

The White House announced today that it will impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and Europe after trade negotiations reached an impasse. The decision could further raise some fenestration component prices, many of which have been climbing steadily for more than a year.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Associated Press that the tariffs, which go into effect at midnight, would be 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. These levels were first announced in March, though Canada and the European Union weren’t directly targeted at that time. President Trump is using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to set the tariffs. It’s a law passed in 1962 that allows the president to add tariffs when imports are deemed to be damaging to U.S. national security. U.S. business associations and groups aligned with the glass, door and window industries announced their opposition to the tariff proposal when it was first announced in March.

Today, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) urged the White House to rethink the tariffs.

“WDMA is extremely disappointed with the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from these countries,” said WDMA president and CEO Michael O’Brien. “Window, door and skylight manufacturers and their suppliers have been dealing with price increases resulting from the tariffs on steel and aluminum enacted in March. These additional tariffs will result in further price increases for the residential and commercial construction markets, while hindering progress on renegotiating NAFTA. WDMA urges the Trump administration to reconsider this onerous action.”

The Associated Press reported that Ross, in a conference call from Paris, said the tariffs were imposed today because talks with Canada and Mexico over revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement were “taking longer than we had hoped.” Talks with Europe had “made some progress,” Ross said, but hadn’t gone far enough.

The tariffs could raise costs for many industries that depend on aluminum and steel. Canada is the No. 1 supplier of both metals to the U.S. The country represents about 41 percent of aluminum imports and 16 percent of steel imports. Mexico represents about 9 percent of the U.S. import market for steel and about 4 percent of the market for aluminum.

According to the EU, U.S. tariffs will affect metal exports worth $7.5 billion in 2017.

The governments targeted by the tariffs expressed disappointment and anger at the decision, and they took steps to strike back with trade sanctions of their own.

Canada announced that it “intends to impose surtaxes or similar trade-restrictive countermeasures against up to C$16.6 billion in imports of steel, aluminum, and other products from the U.S., representing the value of 2017 Canadian exports affected by the U.S. measures,” the nation’s government said in a statement.

“Canada considers it frankly absurd that we would in any way be considered to be a national security threat to the United States,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told the AP on Wednesday before the tariffs were announced. “The government is absolutely prepared to and will defend Canadian industries and Canadian jobs.”

The EU also said it will pursue countermeasures to the U.S. tariffs, including an appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“The U.S. now leaves us with no choice but to proceed with a WTO dispute settlement case and with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the US,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

U.S. products that could be targeted include blue jeans, motorcycles and peanut butter.

Mexico announced today that it would slap duties on a range of products from the U.S.

“In response to the tariffs imposed by the United States, Mexico will impose equivalent measures to various products like flat steels (hot and cold foil, including coated and various tubes), lamps, legs and shoulders of pork, sausages and food preparations, apples, grapes, blueberries, various cheeses, among others, up to an amount comparable to the level of affectation,” the country’s government said in a statement, according to The Hill.

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