Following a tour of Tenaris Algoma Tubes, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, accompanied by Sault MP Terry Sheehan, addressed a group of tube mill workers at the Wallace Terrace plant Tuesday afternoon.
Freeland’s visit came after an earlier trip to the Sault April 18, when she met with highly concerned industry leaders during the fight against U.S. quotas on Canadian steel and aluminum exports.
“(After negotiations with the U.S.) we got a full and complete lift (from the quotas) and it is worth pointing out that today Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that enjoys privileged access to the U.S. market, particularly in steel and aluminum, and that is a real advantage for Canadians and Canadian workers,” Freeland said.
“The fight to retain and expand access for Canadians to world markets is ongoing,” Freeland responded to SooToday when asked if she has remaining concerns regarding trade after renegotiating NAFTA with the U.S. and Mexico.
“It’s a really good question because we are living in the most protectionist time, generally, since the Second World War, and arguably, since the 1930s, so I do think we have to be vigilant and on our toes. We are lucky, I think, to have at the public service level the world’s best trade negotiators, bar none.”
“Even in this really protectionist time, Canada has succeeded not only in maintaining but increasing our access to world markets. Just in the past four years we have concluded a trade deal with the EU (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA) and it is now in force, we have concluded a trade deal with Asia-Pacific (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP), that is in force, and we’ve maintained our access to the U.S. market at a time when the U.S. is restricting access for a lot of countries,” Freeland said.
“Canada is today the only G7 country that has a trade deal with every other G7 country. I think we have to be very vigilant but at the same time I would say to international companies that now is a great time to invest in Canada.”
While NAFTA renegotiations are now complete, the new deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, still must be ratified by the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments.
“For me, getting rid of steel and aluminum tariffs was very much the final chapter of that (NAFTA talks), and so important,” Freeland told reporters.
“Our view is that in terms of the Canadian ratification we need to move in tandem with the United States...not too fast, not too slow,” Freeland said, noting the current unpredictable nature of U.S. domestic politics.
Sault MP Sheehan, when introducing Freeland, described her “as the person who led the charge, who was unwavering in her support for the steel and aluminum industry in Canada, who fought tooth and nail for us.”
Sheehan also thanked David McHattie, Tenaris institutional relations director for Canada, Cody Alexander, USW 9548 president and Tenaris workers in attendance for assisting the government “in the fight against those unfair and unjust tariffs.”