Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My name is Ken Neumann. I am the National Director for the United Steelworkers in Canada. With me is Craig Logie, our trade counsel.
Thank you, all, for allowing me, on behalf of our members in the steel and aluminum industry, to address this committee to discuss Bill C-101.
As you know, the steelworkers' union has been at the forefront in advocating for strengthened trade measures to protect the domestic steel industry. At least 23,000 workers in Canada are directly employed in the steel industry, with another 100,000 indirectly employed. The United Steelworkers is by far the largest union in the steel and aluminum sector.
We are especially concerned for our members working in industries that are threatened by import surges, particularly as much of the world closes or restricts its steel markets. We support Bill C-101, but would also like to see concrete measures in place to protect Canadian steel markets and their workers.
This last year has been particularly difficult for our members in the Canadian steel industry. Over the last eight months or so we have seen over 700 temporary and permanent layoffs in communities from Calgary to Sault Ste. Marie; Hawkesbury, Ontario; and Montreal.
Moreover, the uncertainty created by the current steel trade situation has severely curtailed the industry's willingness to invest in Canadian steel facilities.
As we speak today, our steel sector and workers are still at risk from predatory practices of foreign producers who flout fair trade rules and who are now shut out of other markets.
It is critical that the federal government impose measures to stabilize our market and defend our national interests. As it is, the Canadian steel industry is vulnerable. While the U.S., Mexico and Europe have taken strong actions to defend their steel industry, the steelworkers have worked tirelessly to ensure that the illegal U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products were removed and that they not be replaced with a quota. We are pleased that they have finally been removed.
However, the agreement to remove the tariffs included provisions stating that the U.S. has the ability to reimpose tariffs should there be a surge in imports into Canada. Amendments to the Customs Tariff that would allow Canada to protect its market from the threat of import surges must not by symbolic. It is important that amended power under Bill C-101 be used to impose concrete measures to protect Canadian steel markets and steelworkers.
In the period during the initial imposition of U.S. section 232 tariffs on much of the world, Canada experienced a surge in the imports from non-NAFTA countries requiring temporary safeguards on seven steel products.
Just as an example, overall imports of steel into Canada surged by more than 140% from some countries in the aftermath of the section 232 tariffs. The provisional safeguards imposed last October were working to stabilize the steel market during this turbulent time.
With our ability to participate in trade cases before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, the steelworkers were heavily involved in this year's hearings related to permanent safeguards on seven steel products. Our members produce six of the seven products that were considered in those hearings: rebar, energy tubular, hot-rolled sheet, heavy plate, wire rod and pre-painted. We were disappointed with the recommendations of the CITT, with the Department of Finance's decision not to extend the safeguards on five of the products.
Our concern is that this decision puts our members at risk should there be a surge in imports from countries seeking to avoid tariffs in the United States, or that have met their quotas in European markets. The U.S. maintains its 25% tariff on most of the world. Earlier this year, in February, the European Union announced that its provisional safeguard measures, tariff rate quotas, on 26 steel products would become permanent and should remain in place for three years.
As I have stated, it is our view that Canada cannot continue to be one of the few countries in the world that allows foreign steel to flood into its markets. The federal government must protect producers and workers; it's as simple as that.
Bill C-101 is a good first step, and we urge Parliament and the Senate to pass this legislation as quickly as possible, but we also add that the government's action must go further to ensure the stability of the Canadian steel market.
Further steps must be taken, including the reimposition of safeguard measures on five products that had been subject to the safeguard measures before April.
Thank you again for this opportunity to address the committee. I look forward to any questions you may have.