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Industry response mixed as US slaps tariffs back on Canadian aluminum

Pittsburgh — US primary aluminum producers expressed mixed reactions in response to President Donald Trump's move to reimpose 10% tariffs on primary aluminum from Canada Aug. 6.

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Century Aluminum, which operates three aluminum smelters in the US, praised the trade action as necessary for restoring the US aluminum industry and American jobs.

"As policymakers focus on shoring up our manufacturing base and enhancing supply chain resiliency, the President's leadership helps to secure continued domestic production of this vital strategic material and level the playing field for thousands of American aluminum workers," Century CEO Michael Bless said in a statement.

Conversely, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa said it was disappointed in Trump's reinstatement of the tariff on Canada.

"Implementing these tariffs on a vital, free-trading partner will cause unnecessary disruption for down-stream producers across North America and further distort the market," Alcoa said in a statement.

Alcoa said Chinese overcapacity, rather than Canadian imports, is the main issue challenging primary aluminum production in the US.

"The United States and Canada should be working together with other fair-trading partners to address the unfair subsidies that have incentivized persistent overcapacity in China," the company said.

Alcoa operates two aluminum smelters in the US following the recent curtailment of a third smelter in Washington State.

The Trump administration placed 10% tariffs on primary aluminum imports, along with 25% tariffs on steel imports, in 2018, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Canada and Mexico were granted exemptions from the tariffs in 2019.

In a proclamation released by the White House, Trump said aluminum imports from Canada have increased since the exemption was granted.

"The surge in imports of these articles from Canada coincides with a decrease in imports of these articles from other countries and threatens to harm domestic aluminum production and capacity utilization," Trump said in the proclamation.

The tariffs will impact imports of aluminum from Canada designated under HTS code 7601.10.