Saskatchewan premier going to Washington, D.C. after steel tariffs announced

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is heading to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with officials about the United States imposing tariffs on Canadian-made steel and aluminum.

Moe says the tariffs, which he calls troubling, will hurt the Evraz steel plant in Regina, which employs about 1,000 people. He adds that he doesn’t think any trade war is productive.

“We’ve always been supportive of free and open trade and we continue to be, so we’ll be engaging next week in Washington on this file as well as the broader NAFTA file,” Moe said Thursday.

The Saskatchewan government is to meet with senators, members of Congress and three senior members of the White House.

Within hours of the U.S. announcement on Thursday, the federal government retaliated by imposing dollar-for-dollar tariff “countermeasures” on up to $16.6 billion worth of U.S. imports into Canada.

The tariffs, which apply to a long list of U.S. products that includes everything from flat-rolled steel to playing cards and felt-tipped pens, are to go into effect July 1, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference.

Moe said he’s also spoken with Conrad Winkler, the CEO and president of Evraz North America. The two plan to talk further over the phone in the coming days, he said.

“Challenging time I’m sure for a company like Evraz that has plants on both sides of the border, and they’ll be assessing how that impacts them as well, I’m certain,” Moe said.

Canada, Mexico and Europe had been exempted from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum when they were first imposed in March.

Moe, who will be visiting Washington for the first time, talked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday prior to the U.S. move to lift the exemption and praised the federal government for its work on North American Free Trade Agreement talks.

The premier said that 55 per cent of the province’s exports go south of the border and 85 per cent of its imports come from the U.S.

One in five Saskatchewan jobs are dependent on trade with other nations, including the U.S., he added.

Moe said he’ll be making all those points during his visit.

“I’ll be impressing the impact on our province, on the jobs of the province and on the strength that we have globally when we have strong arrangements across the border,” he said.

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