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Manufacturers On Trump Tariffs: Don’t Do It, Mr. President

With President Trump announcing he will implement new tariffs on steel an aluminum next week, U.S. manufacturing business leaders are speaking out against the move.
President Trump meets with U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturing industry leaders on Thursday, March 1, 2018.

With President Donald Trump announcing he will implement new tariffs on steel an aluminum next week, U.S. manufacturing business leaders—particularly those that use a lot of metal—are speaking out against the move.

The 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum imports will hit certain manufacturing sectors hard, and the news sent automaker stocks tumbling Thursday afternoon. But the move could impact manufacturers in a wide variety of industries.

Foreign steel and aluminum-producing allies also had strong words against any new tariffs, promising retaliation of their own if they are imposed. Here’s a look at some initial reactions from across the business and political worlds:

  • The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council says that tariffs will increase costs for small businesses:

“There is no escaping the fact that these tariffs – or new taxes, because that is what they are – will raise costs for many small to mid-size businesses,” SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan said in a statement. “The action, unfortunately, cuts against the many positive policies the Administration has championed and advanced to make the U.S. more investment and business friendly.”

  • The Beer Institute says the tariff on aluminum will put American jobs in jeopardy:

“President Trump’s announcement today that he plans to impose a 10% tariff on aluminum imports will increase the cost of aluminum in the United States and endanger American jobs in the beer industry and throughout the supply chain,” The Beer Institute president and CEO Jim McGreevy said. “According to third-party analyses, this 10% tariff will create a new $347.7 million tax on America’s beverage industry, including brewers and beer importers, and result in the loss of 20,291 American jobs.”

  • American Chemistry Council’s statement on the tariffs says the move could bring growth in the chemical manufacturing space to a halt:

“We urge President Trump to reconsider imposing these costly tariffs and punishing the very businesses that are helping him grow the economy and create jobs. Chemical companies can’t grow as quickly or deliver the same innovative and affordable products if the facilities where those products are made suddenly become costly to build or maintain. For a chemical manufacturing industry that has invested $185 billion in new factories, expansions and restarts of facilities around the country, President Trump’s announcement comes at the worst possible time. More than half of these investment projects are still in the planning stage, and market shifts caused by tariff increases may convince investors to do business elsewhere.”

  • The American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) believes the tariffs could have a hugely negative impact on U.S. automakers:

“These proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports couldn’t come at a worse time,” AIADA President and CEO Cody Lusk said in a statement. “Auto sales have flattened in recent months, and manufacturers are not prepared to absorb a sharp increase in the cost to build cars and trucks in America. The burden of these tariffs, as always, will be passed on to the American consumer. Car shoppers looking for a deal will instead find that they are paying a new tax to transport themselves and their families.”

  • General Motors’ statement on the move said that while the company primarily uses domestic steel, it still needs to see the details on the tariffs:

“We purchase over 90 percent of our steel for U.S. production from U.S. suppliers. We need to better understand the details around the announcement today, but the bottom line is we support trade policies that enable U.S. manufacturers to win and grow jobs in the U.S., and at the same time succeed in global markets. Over the last several years, we have shown we are a disciplined company with the ability to adjust and adapt to a variety of market changes around the world, and we’ll do that again as needed”

  • Canada and the European Union issued strongly-worded statements expressing dismay over the proposed tariffs, and warning the U.S. that countermeasures could be on the horizon:

“As a key NORAD and NATO ally, and as the number one customer of American steel, Canada would view any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement. “Any restrictions would harm workers, the industry and manufacturers on both sides of the border. The steel and aluminum industry is highly integrated and supports critical North American manufacturing supply chains. The Canadian government will continue to make this point directly with the American administration at all levels.

We will always stand up for Canadian workers and Canadian businesses.  Should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products, Canada will take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers.”

Meanwhile, president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said in  statement: “We strongly regret this step, which appears to represent a blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry and not to be based on any national security justification. Protectionism cannot be the answer to our common problem in the steel sector. Instead of providing a solution, this move can only aggravate matters.

The EU has been a close security ally of the US for decades. We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk. I had the occasion to say that the EU would react adequately and that’s what we will do. The EU will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests. The Commission will bring forward in the next few days a proposal for WTO-compatible countermeasures against the US to rebalance the situation.”


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