WINDSOR, Ont. — A roundtable discussion about the impact U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs are having on the Canadian auto and manufacturing industries drew a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday in Windsor, Ont., where business owners were encouraged to stand up and speak out about the escalating trade war.
Organizers said they had planned to host 50 people. About 250 showed up, and were told to make their voices heard — immediately.
Worry filled the room alongside executives and decision-makers from the auto parts and tool and die sectors as they continue to grapple with the rising cost of U.S. President Donald Trump’s America-first policies.
The United States has already imposed 25-per-cent and 10-per-cent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and is now considering a 25-per-cent tariff on light-duty vehicles built outsideAmerica.
“This isn’t our first trade war with the United States. We’ve been through two before. But I’m not going to say we’re experts at it,” Canadian Association of Mold Makers President Jonathon Azzopardi said. “We need a solution, one that has a plan, maybe even a hero. This sector needs support.”
The Canadian government has crafted a $2-billion aid package designed to help businesses negatively affected by the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Tracey Ramsey, NDP MP and critic for international trade called that solution “a Bandaid” and said the money won’t last long.
“I know many of you like me, are not sleeping very well at night,” she said.
Azzopardi and Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive PartsManufacturers’ Association, told the group to start making waves on both sides of the border.
“For those of you who like to stay under the radar, now is not that time. It is the time for you to stand up,” Azzopardi said. “More than ever we need you to be loud, speak with one voice. Whatever it takes we need to stay front and centre in all the headlines. If we don’t do this, there will be no seat for us at the table and we will go hungry.”
Volpe begged the manufacturers to “show them your shops.”
“Show them what’s at risk,” he said. “When you’re quiet, you end up with B.S. You gotta be in the news. This is your battleground.
"Now is the time to be the lion. Go out and eat and protect the pride.”
Volpe warned that if tariffs are implemented on Canada-made cars and trucks, it will drive up costs on both sides of the border and “open a flank” China can exploit.
“Canada won’t have a tariff regime. Want to see what a Chinese car looks like? I’ve seen them. They’re beautiful,” Volpe said. “And you will buy them, because you need a new car and you can’t afford one that costs 25 per cent more.”