U.S. tariffs little comfort to Canadian steel city of Hamilton

Vastavam web: A temporary exemption from U.S. tariffs is little comfort to the Canadian steel city of Hamilton, coping with months of uncertainty as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened a potentially devastating 25 percent duty unless the North American Free Trade Agreement is renegotiated.Canadian negotiators are weighing the interests of the relatively small sector, responsible for about 22,000 direct Canadian jobs and C$9.0 billion ($7.0 billion) in U.S. exports, against those of bigger industries like auto manufacturing and politically influential groups like dairy farmers.

Hamilton, population 700,000, has pushed to diversify its economy, with better transit links to Toronto and affordable homes that are attracting families priced out of Canada’s biggest city.A C$139-million project is underway to clean up coal tar that contaminates the harbor and condos are replacing once empty downtown storefronts.But ArcelorMittal’s Dofasco mill, coking and finishing operations at Stelco, and a collection of smaller operations still directly employ 10,000 people in Hamilton.

The North American steel industry is heavily integrated, with raw materials, steel and parts crossing the U.S.-Canadian border several times before a finished product such as a vehicle or refrigerator is sold to consumers. About 65 percent of the Hamilton port’s tonnage is iron ore and coal used to make steel.Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Keanin Loomis, a former Washington lawyer, is part of a new generation in the city who have never worked in a steel mill. But like much of the city, he has a personal connection to steel, a father-in-law retired from the Dofasco mill.