Trump Officially Institutes Steel Tariffs
President Donald J. Trump, a week after announcing he would institute new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, acted on his promise Thursday (March 8), imposing new tariffs but exempting the United States’ NAFTA partners and leaving the door open to other exceptions in the future.
Steel coming into the country from countries other than Canada and Mexico will now face tariffs of 25 percent; aluminum imports will face 10 percent tariffs. The duties will go into effect 15 days after Thursday’s proclamation.
While Trump had said last week that there would be no exceptions to the tariffs, he softened his stance by the time of the official announcement of the duties, exempting the country’s closest neighbors. Exempting Canada was a priority of the United Steel Workers union, which supports the tariffs for countries accused of “dumping” product in the U.S. at prices too low to compete with, but said that Canada was “not the problem.”
More Exceptions Possible
Aside from exempting Canada and Mexico—with whom Trump is seeking to renegotiate NAFTA terms—the president said he would consider removing the tariffs in the future for countries that treat the U.S. "fairly."
Canada accounts for more of the steel coming into the U.S. than any other country, with 16 percent of steel imports coming from that country in the third quarter of 2017, according to the International Trade Administration. Mexico accounted for nine percent of U.S. steel imports during the same period.
According to the Washington Post, 90 percent of the aluminum used in the U.S. is imported from elsewhere.
Trump characterized the United States’ reliance on imports from countries that dump their product at unfair prices as a matter of national security, saying that “a nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.”
U.S. Steel CEO David B. Burritt, who was present at last week’s initial announcement of the tariffs, said in a statement, “For far too long, steel imports have been allowed to undermine America’s steel strength. Our national security is only as strong as American steel. President Trump’s action will begin to level the playing field for the security and manufacturing strength of the United States.”
While steelmakers praised the tariffs, the Associated General Contractors of America doubled down Thursday on its insistence that the move will be counterproductive to the country’s infrastructure-improvement efforts.
“These new tariffs will cause significant harm to the nation’s construction industry, put tens of thousands of high-paying construction jobs at risk, undermine the president’s proposed infrastructure initiative and potentially dampen demand for new construction projects for years to come,” AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said in a statement.