By Mark C. Poloncarz
In Erie County we enjoy a special relationship with Canada. The bonds of friendship and commerce between us run deep and strengthen the economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario. This longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship is under attack, however, by short-sighted tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on Canadian products, including steel, and the responding tariffs imposed on U.S.-produced goods by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This abuse of what are referred to as section 282 tariffs, which are supposed to be reserved for national security purposes only, is already disrupting our economic sector and will soon erode our tourism industry.
Since taking office in 2012, my administration has worked with Invest Buffalo Niagara, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, Visit Buffalo Niagara and others to promote Erie County as a good place for Canadian businesses to expand.
We have had notable success. In just the past six years, 41 Canadian companies with products and services of all types have recognized the wisdom of establishing operations here in Erie County, investing nearly $145 million to grow their businesses and bring hundreds of new jobs to the region.
In 2012, Welded Tube, a Canadian manufacturer of industrial-grade steel pipes, invested nearly $50 million to build its Lackawanna facility where Bethlehem Steel once stood, creating more than 120 jobs. Despite great success over the past six years, Welded Tube was recently forced to lay off workers, cut production schedules and suspend expansion plans due to the impacts of the steel tariffs levied against Canada. Unfortunately, this will not be an isolated incident. Other companies in Erie County are facing cutting jobs, wages and production to minimize the tariffs’ financial impacts.
Additionally, the trade war with Canada is negatively impacting our tourism sector. Visit Buffalo Niagara’s most recent research indicates that Canadians make more than 3 million cross-border trips per year to Western New York, spending in excess of $900 million during their time here. VBN and other tourism experts have noted a reduction in cross-border visits since the tariffs were imposed, resulting in the weakening of this vital economic sector.
Economic alliances such as the one we enjoy with Canada are the bedrock of our region and the foundation for growth and prosperity on both sides of the border. The misuse of 282 tariffs by the Trump administration damages that prosperous relationship, turns partners and friends against each other and erodes economic gains in our community.
Bipartisan legislation currently before Congress would ensure that 282 tariffs are reserved for true national security crises, not to punish our oldest allies. It’s time Congress passed this legislation. It is in Erie County’s, and America’s, best interests to turn away from this destructive path and back to normal trade relations with our Canadian friends.
Mark C. Poloncarz is the Erie County Executive.