Trump Imposes More Tariffs on Metal

Written by SK Ashby

The Trump regime first imposed tariffs on foreign steel in the spring of 2018 and they've now imposed exceptionally high tariffs on imports of structural steel; the kind of steel used in the construction of buildings.

The regime has accused some Chinese and Mexican firms of dumping structural steel at below market rates, but the new duties will hit every firm including those who have not been accused of dumping.

From Reuters:

The [Commerce Department] said it imposed duties of up to 141% on Chinese structural steel and up to 31% on Mexican structural steel and will begin collecting cash deposits for imports based on those rates. [...]

Commerce found that one Chinese producer, Modern Heavy Industries (Taicang) Co Ltd, did not dump product into the United States, but it imposed dumping rates of 52% on Wison (Nanton) Heavy Industry Co Ltd and 57.86% on Jinhuan Construction Group Co Ltd. It also assigned a preliminary dumping rate of 141% for all other Chinese fabricators.

The result of this, of course, is not going to be the dramatic recovery of the American metal industry or even necessarily a significant drop in the flow of structural steel from the affected countries. The result is going to be higher costs for construction as supply is squeezed and American producers raise prices just because they can, not because of increased demand.

And this is not the last of Trump's tariffs on foreign metal. Reuters reports that the Commerce Department could impose more duties in January after their anti-dumping "investigaiton" is complete. Duties that hit the books this week could also be made semi-permanent (locked in for at least 5 years) at the same time.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that we're approaching a point where Trump's various trade wars are raising the cost of conducting business for virtually every industry.

The products covered by the investigation are prefabricated from beams, girders, columns plates and flanges for erection or assembly into structures, such as buildings, parking decks, hospitals, arenas and ports. The investigation excludes concrete reinforcing bar structures, steel bridge sections, pre-fabricated steel buildings and steel utility poles, among other products.

The result of the Commerce Department's investigations under Trump -- from anti-dumping investigations to Section 232 "national security" investigations -- have all been decided before the investigation is even complete. The investigation is just a legal formality on the way to doing whatever Trump or various lobbyists from the metal industry want.

Shareholders and executives undoubtedly stand to make a profit from this decision, but it will mean jack shit for the average employee of the industry.