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What the New Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Could Mean for the Construction and Housing Market

| 3/29/2018 9:32:00 AM

The unexpected announcement earlier this month of new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum could impact prices for the U.S. construction, infrastructure and housing markets. Protectionist trade policy, introduced by the White House to boost domestic production and add new jobs, will impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

Following through on a key campaign promise and rattling stock markets, this is the latest of aggressive trade policy changes, preceded by the U.S. exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Why Tariffs, and Why Now?

Messaging from the federal government initially declared no country, including Canada and Mexico, would be exempt from the tariffs unless the U.S. can negotiate a better deal with NAFTA. The Trump Administration has since announced Canada and Mexico will now be exempt from the tariffs — undoubtedly a relief for Canada, which produces 16 percent of U.S. steel and 41 percent of U.S. aluminum.

Speaking at a White House meeting, Trump said no one truly understands how badly other countries treat the U.S., and that “disgraceful” trade policies have obliterated the country’s capacity to produce vital commodities. "When our country can't make aluminum and steel," he said, "you almost don't have much of a country."

The U.S. is the world’s largest steel importer, and even though it relies on shipments from more than 100 countries and territories, Trump has singled out China previously as a threat to domestic trade and did so once again in his statement.

4/2/2018 11:17:14 AM

Something I dislike is quite a bit (don't know exact numbers) of the metal that gets sent to be recycled in the US ends up being shipped to China. This seems to me to be both unsustainable and irrational. I'd love to see US plants that actually do the recycling themselves, there are very few left.

3/30/2018 10:57:32 AM

Where to begin, wow, well, I guess I'll start with trade agreements. Congress, not international and unelected trade organizations is the Constitutional responsibility in the still (barely) sovereign United Sates of America according to Article 1, Section 8. In addition, in Article Vi (6), it states that the Constitution and laws of the United States are superior to all treaties. Every "free" trade agreement we are signed onto currently violates both our Constitution and laws as a sovereign nation as well as gives unfair preference to foreign trading partners. The U.S. prospered for 200 years while we negotiated our own FAIR trade agreements with other nations, but have suffered the loss of critical industries and millions of jobs under "free" trade agreements, much of which has been to countries which are not our friends, most notably, Red China. Steel and aluminum are "strategic" commodities, essential for our national defense, which we should NOT be dependent on foreign sources. I now live in a community that has a very large (idled) aluminum plant that low-cost imports are responsible for shutting down 10 years ago. Next to it is a coal-fired power plant complex that survived until January of this year, supplying power to the Texas power grid. Rather than convert it to natural gas, the company decided to shut it down, which also resulted in a nearby coal mining operation to go out of business. Anyone who remembers the quality and safety of goods produced and sold in the U.S. prior to "Free" trade are well aware of the cheap (quality) as well as many times dangerous and/or poisonous nature of many of the goods we import today. We may pay a little more for better goods made in the U.S., but they last a lot longer than and are safer than Red Chinese items. I'm all for taking back control of our trading policies and agreements, it's the best path for the nation and our economy.

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