Trump's aluminum tariff announcement draws criticism across sectors, borders

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilateral reimpose a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum exports has spurred a wide array of outcry and criticism from across sectors, political allegiances and even borders.

In Canada, the move has been panned by labour unions and aluminum companies alike, with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) urging Ottawa to “act aggressively to oppose the move.”

CLC president Hassan Yussuff said the union was among the groups that fought the previous tariffs imposed in 2018 for more than a year before it was removed under an exemption related to the USMCA North American free trade talks. Yussuff added the CLC will again take up a firm position in this new round of tariff fights.

The new tariffs, he added, is “particularly offensive” because it comes only about a month after the USMCA came into force on July 1.

“Canadian workers are not a prop for Donald Trump to use in his re-election campaign,” said Yussuff in a statement. “This is a clear affront. The federal government has to continue to forcefully stand up for Canadian workers and industry and must counter these unfair tariffs.”

Canadian deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland announced earlier this morning Ottawa is formulating a final list of American goods that are to face a similar 10% tariff upon entry into Canada, starting in mid-September. The countermeasure will target $3.6-billion-worth of American-made goods, federal officials said.

The CLC position echoed that of the Aluminum Association of Canada, which represents three major Canadian producers (Alcoa, Alouette and Rio Tinto). While the three companies’ nine smelters are mostly located in Quebec, one - Rio Tinto’s BC Works in Kitimat - is located in B.C. and contributes more than $533 million to the provincial economy.

The association is also calling for Ottawa to consider “all options for retaliation” given the fact the new tariffs “goes against the spirit of the USMCA and the previous joint American-Canadian statement in 2019 in exempting Canada from the tariffs.

"At a time when we should work together to jump-start our economies by strengthening our supply chains, here we are playing into the hands of Russia and China.” said Aluminum Association president/CEO Jean Simard. “This move will not only benefit foreign traders, but will increasingly substitute Canadian metal with metal from Russia without addressing the real problem: China.”

Trump’s new tariffs have also angered the aluminum sector on the U.S. side, with the American Aluminum Association and its 120-plus members denouncing the Section 232 tariffs - named after a U.S. law that allows the White House to unilaterally impose tariffs in certain circumstances.

Members of the American association also include Alcoa and Rio Tinto, in addition to Novelis, Constellium, Arctic, Kaiser Aluminum and several others. Previously, groups like the American Beverage Association, the Beer Institute and the Can Manufacturers Institute joined the Aluminum Association is writing to U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in opposition to the possibility of new tariffs.

There are some U.S. producers - such as Kentucky-based Century Aluminum - who have applauded Trump’s announcement, however.