A temporary exemption from US tariffs is little comfort to the Canadian steel city of Hamilton, coping with months of uncertainty as US President Donald Trump has threatened a potentially devastating 25 percent duty unless the North American Free Trade Agreement is renegotiated.
Canadian negotiators are weighing the interests of the relatively small sector, responsible for about 22,000 direct Canadian jobs and C$9.0 billion ($7.0 billion) in US exports, against those of bigger industries like auto manufacturing and politically influential groups like dairy farmers.
“I don't think we're at the end of it. Now it's being used as leverage,” said Hamilton Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Ian Hamilton. “President Trump is putting a lot of pressure on everybody.” Hamilton, population 700,000, has pushed to diversify its economy, with better transit links to Toronto and affordable homes that are attracting families priced out of Canada's biggest city. A C$139-million project is underway to clean up coal tar that contaminates the harbour and condos are replacing once empty downtown storefronts.
When Canadian steel escaped US steel tariffs in 2002, the duties had diverted some cheap steel into Canada. In recent years, a global steel glut has made it difficult for Canadian mills to compete.