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Opinion: National rebar tariff is a Buy America preference imposed on B.C.

BC is collateral damage due to CITT’s national tariff on imported rebar. ICBA will continue to fight for BC’s construction industry.
BC is collateral damage due to CITT’s national tariff on imported rebar. ICBA will continue to fight for BC’s construction industry.

Canada is a trading nation that is the envy of many because of the wealth of our resources and the resourcefulness of our people. Every province is formed by diverse

and unique trading economies requiring diverse skilled people.

It’s our unyielding ability to import and export goods that help our provinces grow, our national economy thrive and our country compete in a global marketplace.

Pivotal to maintaining our competitiveness, the Canada Border and Services Agency and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal share responsibility for protecting our industries from unfairly traded imports. Part of their job is to investigate complaints from Canadian industries.

The CBSA and the CITT have a number of tools to safeguard and protect Canadian businesses. For example, when foreign-owned eastern Canadian steel mills complained to the CBSA of dumping of rebar from China, Korea and Turkey, the CBSA and the CITT justly initiated an investigation. It was concluded there was dumping and a national tariff on rebar was put in place.

In many cases, a national tariff on goods from other countries can be the best solution to protecting our competitiveness and protecting Canadian jobs. However, we must acknowledge and recognize Canada is a diverse nation that does not allow for a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to trade policies.

In B.C., the newly imposed tariff on rebar is having an adverse effect on our construction industry and our economy. That’s why the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and the government of British Columbia decided to stand for B.C. and protect our competitiveness.

We are appealing to the CITT to exempt B.C. from this national tariff because of our unique market. There are no rebar producing steel mills in B.C. Because of capacity issues and high transportation costs, foreign-owned eastern Canadian steel mills have not been able to supply our market. Nor have they shown interest. Some domestic producers strategically decided to leave our market in 2014. As a result, our province has had to rely on U.S. and non-NAFTA suppliers.

The current tariff means B.C. is denied access to the most competitively priced rebar available and this increases the cost of construction.

Unnecessarily, the tariff is also costing cash-strapped taxpayers more and it is hurting B.C. families and small businesses. For example, the cost of buying a new home in Metro Vancouver’s already unaffordable market will increase more than it would have because of the tariff. Mortgaged over 25 years, even a modest increase in cost represents a large amount for a home buyer. Those lucky enough to afford a mortgage pay significantly more than they should. Those trying to get into the market may be squeezed out.

ICBA debates with CITT that BC should be exempt from rebar tariff because the local market is not adequately supplied by Canadian mills.
ICBA debates with CITT that BC should be exempt from rebar tariff because the local market is not adequately supplied by Canadian mills.

 The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and the government of British Columbia will this week at the public interest inquiry in Vancouver be standing up to foreign-owned eastern Canadian steel mills that do not serve our market. We will be standing up to mills in the U.S. that are the only beneficiaries of the new tariff. We will be standing up to protect B.C. jobs and B.C. families.

This new tariff is effectively a Buy America preference imposed on B.C. It is not protecting our competitiveness. Rather, it puts us at risk. It is not protecting B.C. or any Canadian jobs. Rather, we are creating jobs for Americans and harming jobs here at home.

We are asking the CITT to do the right thing and exempt B.C. from a national tariff that hurts B.C. and doesn’t protect Canadian jobs.

Philip Hochstein is president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.

Column originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun, July 27, 2015

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