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The Power of a Tariff on Foreign Steel

By Jelani Rucker
on March 12, 2018

On March 1, 2018, President Trump announced his decision to act on the findings of the Section 232 investigation that began in April 2017. The measures — a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports, with at least temporary exemptions for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and South Korea — have become subjects of heated debate ever since. Regardless of one’s political stance, it’s hard to deny that the steel tariff will have a positive impact on the domestic steel industry.

An End to Silent Suffering in the Domestic Steel Industry

First and foremost, the domestic steel industry feels like its voice is finally being heard. For years, many of America’s hard-working steelworkers suffered seemingly in silence as a flood of imports caused a domestic production slump, mill closures and unemployment. The new trade policies acknowledge this suffering and offer hope for change.

“It was really heartwarming to see President Trump and Commerce Secretary Ross speak with such passion and knowledge about the challenges that have faced our industry,” said Mickey McNamara, executive vice president at Zekelman Industries, in an interview on CNBC.

Growth for Steel Product Manufacturers

The new trade policies aren’t just an empty promise or a wish for future improvement for the steel industry — they began impacting businesses even before they took effect. For example, Zekelman Industries, North America’s largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer, announced potential plans to add hundreds of jobs in Pennsylvania alone, and increase production across its American mills, the company’s executive chairman and CEO, Barry Zekelman, told CBS Evening News.

Additionally, U.S. Steel plans to reopen the Granite City Works blast furnace in Granite City, Illinois, which will re-employ 500 workers. And Republic Steel plans to reopen its facility in Lorain, Ohio, bringing 1,000 people back to work. Many more stories of growth and expansion are expected to come to light in the coming weeks and months as the industry rallies to meet the demand for domestic steel and steel products.

More Money in Workers’ Wallets

Steel industry growth isn’t just benefitting steel magnates; the increase in domestic steel production will help individuals and entire communities across the country. As we’ve seen in the past, every new job in the steel industry creates seven jobs in supporting industries. Just think of all the accountants, restauranteurs, bankers and consultants who serve the steel industry. People who earn money also spend it, which benefits everyone.

And Zekelman Industries isn’t waiting for job growth to help put money in workers’ wallets — Barry Zekelman announced on March 1 that each employee will receive a $1,000 annual bonus for as long as the tariffs remain in place. That’s real money for real people who have proven their dedication to the industry every day, in good times and in tougher times. For the first time in years, it finally seems that for American steelworkers, there are good days ahead.