A union and various steel industry groups are calling for President Joe Biden to keep in place the steel tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump.
Leaders of seven groups wrote a letter this week addressed directly to the president on behalf of U.S. steel producers, fabricators, and workers emphasizing the impact that Trump’s 2018 steel tariffs had on their industry. They said that the move was necessary because surges in steel imports threatened nearly 2 million domestic jobs.
“The tariffs have been a success, allowing our industry to restart idled mills, rehire laid-off workers and invest in the future,” the letter read. “Since the tariffs took effect, American steel producers have announced plans to invest more than $15.7 billion in new or upgraded facilities — investments that are now beginning to bear fruit in the form of permanent, family-sustaining steel jobs and economic activity that supports communities across the United States.”
The letter, which, among others, was signed by United Steelworkers, one of the country’s largest unions, goes on to acknowledge that opponents of the tariffs argue that they are adding to the rising cost of steel but pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented “unprecedented, but temporary, challenges to global supply chains in many industries.”
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act allows tariffs on the grounds of national security, and despite critics saying it was an abuse of the law, Trump used that justification to impose the steel tariffs in 2018.
Philip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association and one of the signatories of the letter, told the Washington Examiner on Friday that while the Biden administration has not yet responded, he wanted to give Biden credit “for not being partisan and just immediately doing away with the tariffs.”
“We really applaud the administration’s very measured and methodical approach to looking at the tariffs and trade policy,” Bell said. He said that Biden’s decision to keep the tariffs in place while trade negotiations continue is a wise choice for several reasons.
He said the tariffs have helped stem the tide of unfairly traded imports, have added billions of dollars in steel-industry investment, and have given the U.S. leverage to enter into negotiations with allies about how to move away gradually from tariffs in order to have free and open markets.
Bell also said another aspect of the tariffs that is often underreported is the environmental component. He said that the move has caused the United States to cut back on steel imports that contribute much more to the world’s CO2 emissions.
“It’s good for American jobs, but it’s also good for the environment because a lot of these countries not only do not, they cannot make steel as cleanly as we make it,” he said.
In addition to the union and Bell’s organization, the letter was signed by representatives from the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Committee on Pipe & Tube Imports, the Specialty Steel Industry of North America, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
On the flip side of the coin, the Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users, the National Foreign Trade Council, and dozens of other steel and aluminum-using U.S. companies asked Biden earlier this month for the tariffs to be removed because of demand and high prices.
“It is businesses manufacturing in America such as ours who pay the tariffs on imports, and it is our businesses and employees who suffer when our product cannot compete with overseas manufacturers because the U.S. is an island of high steel and aluminum prices,” the letter read. “On some products, American businesses pay 40 percent more for similar steel compared to their European counterparts — an unsustainable situation for any U.S. employer.”