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Windsor steel company worried new NAFTA will be 'just as bad' as tariff threat

CBC

Canada may have been spared from U.S. steel tariffs, but one Windsor company is still moving away from the alloy in anticipation of a new NAFTA agreement that could be "just as bad."

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that Canada and Mexico will be exempt from tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the U.S. as long as a "fair" NAFTA deal is reached.

But Ryan Jordan, president of RJ Steel in Windsor, said he's worried about Trump's definition of "fair", adding he doesn't expect the already high prices he's paying to go down anytime soon.

"I think it will take a couple of months for things to change," he explained. "The suppliers have to pay a certain price from the mill. We don't see that the mills are going to lower their prices overnight just because of him excluding the tariffs, because President Trump has already said he wants to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement on his terms."

Jordan said the price he pays for a pound of steel has already jumped from 50 cents to 75 and he isn't optimistic that trend is going to change.

"The NAFTA agreement may be just as bad as a 25 per cent tariff, that's what I'm hearing from suppliers," he added. "So they're not going to lower their prices any time soon. They're waiting to see what this NAFTA agreement entails."

Tariff 'threat' is not over

Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation CEO Stephen MacKenzie said while Thursday's announcement is good new for the area, he's also wary of what Trump has planned.

"He is using it as a negotiation tactic for NAFTA, using it as a bit of a threat and saying that if Canada and Mexico don't agree to the types of things he wants to see in NAFTA then perhaps these tariffs are looming," MacKenzie explained.

Jordan said he has halted his order for a new piece of machinery because of uncertainty around his sales in the coming months. He and his staff of six are also making a more major change.

 "We're already in the works of looking at alternative materials in our railings, materials that aren't affected by the steel industry," said Jordan. "We do a lot of aluminum alloys also ... but we're looking at alternative materials at this point."

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