New York is joining Michigan and Ohio in criticizing a McInnis Cement plant subsidized by the province of Quebec for potentially violating fair trade standards, according to the Times Union.

 

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to the head of trade policy for the Obama administration, urging an investigation into whether Quebec's support for a planned $1 billion plant violates international trade rules. Quebec is investing $100 million in the new plant, and also providing a $250 million subsidized loan.

Such subsidies could allow the plant, being built on the Gaspe Peninsula near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, to export cheap cement to the U.S., undercutting prices of domestic cement manufacturers, said the senators in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman whose office handles international trade disputes before the World Trade Organization.

There are two cement plants in the Albany, N.Y., region – one owned by Lafarge North America in Ravena and the Lehigh Hanson plant in Glens Falls – that together employ about 300 workers. The Lafarge plant is in the midst of a multimillion dollar rebuild of its 1950s-era facility expected to be done by mid-2017.

“In order for local companies like Lafarge and Lehigh Hanson to continue to thrive, we must do more to ensure they are on a level playing field with their foreign counterparts,” said Gillibrand.

Schumer added, “Upstate New York’s cement producers provide good-paying jobs to hundreds of New Yorkers, and we must make sure none of those jobs are put in jeopardy by unfairly subsidized competition from Canada.”

“Market conditions in Canada indicate that the McInnis plant's viability would depend on cheap exports to U.S. markets. Canadian government and industry officials have publicly indicated that the majority of the future plant's output would be exported to the U.S.,” Schumer and Gillbrand stated in their letter.

Quebec already exports about 700,000 tons of cement annually to the U.S., according to the Cement Association of Canada. That figure could increase once the new plant, which would have a 2.2 million-ton annual capacity, begins running.

In July, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was joined by Lafarge when he raised similar concerns about the Quebec project with the federal trade office. Another such protest is now being considered by state lawmakers in Michigan. Lafarge has plants in both those states.

Furthermore, Lafarge recently joined two not-for-profit environmental groups in a legal challenge against the provincial environmental minister's approval of the project, claiming it bypassed an environmental impact assessment and review.

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