President Donald Trump recently signed an order authorizing a global 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum tariffs. How will it affect construction?
According to NRP, the order exempts imports from Canada and Mexico. Canada is the top supplier of both materials to the U.S., accounting for 16% of imported steel and 41% of imported aluminum.
But while U.S. steel workers have applauded the president’s move, the construction industry could be a big loser in the deal. According to a study conducted by The Trade Partnership, the tariffs could cost the construction industry as many as 28,000 jobs as a result of increased costs on construction and infrastructure projects.
“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,” Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a written statement. “That is because the newly-imposed tariffs will lead to increases in what construction firms are forced to pay for the many steel and aluminum products that go into a typical construction project.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., issued a statement disagreeing with the administration’s approach, arguing instead for “targeted enforcement” against bad trade practices by countries like China.
“I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences. I am pleased that the president has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further,” Ryan said. “We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law.”
On the flip side, American steelworkers are overjoyed.
“Everybody’s just happy,” said Mark Goodfellow, head of the Steelworkers Local 420A in Massena, N.Y., where Alcoa employs about 500 people. “It feels like the American worker is getting a break and finally getting a shot to compete on a level playing field.”
U.S. Steel announced plans to restart one of two idle blast furnaces in Granite City, Ill., and call back some 500 workers. Century Aluminum plans to invest $100 million in its smelter in Hawesville, Ky., and hire 300 additional workers.