Ross: Leaders must intervene to stop steel, aluminum tariff threats

(March 8, 2018–ANNAPOLIS, Md.)–As President Donald Trump authorizes tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce joins other organizations across the country and around the world in voicing serious concerns.

“These kinds of tariffs will have terrible effects on Maryland’s economy,” said Maryland Chamber President & CEO Christine Ross. “Obviously, the impact on manufacturing will set back an industry we have been fighting mightily to bolster. But the effects on construction, contracting, transportation and infrastructure projects, durable goods, imports and more will be very costly.

“These industries are pivotal in the state. They offer jobs to tens of thousands of people. Companies like Stanley Black and Decker, which employs more than 2,300 Marylanders, will get hit hard. Higher costs for supplies and production mean fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers.”

According to the Maryland Chamber’s partner for economic analysis, the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, construction laborers; first line trade and extraction workers; carpenters; electricians; and plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters were among the top 10 occupations that would see growth in the state between 2017 and 2019. Tariffs on steel and aluminum could impact all of those professions.

Construction represented the second largest area for employment growth in Baltimore City from 2016 – 2018, by RESI’s research.

Steel and aluminum are not only for heavy manufacturing. The state’s craft beer industry and other products relying on tin could also be affected. According to the Brookings Institution, steel and aluminum imports account for 5.5 percent of Maryland’s total imports. That’s more than double the national average.

“This is a ripple effect that would impact Maryland from Garrett County to the Eastern Shore,” Ross said.

At the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Congressional Delegation Dinner Tuesday evening in Greenbelt, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen spoke pointedly about the danger of this kind of tariff.

“American products shipped out of the port of Baltimore will be put at competitive disadvantage with their competitors from around the world who are not paying a 25-percent tariff on the steel they are using,” Van Hollen said.

He went on to explain that he had met with the president of Volvo Trucks, a Maryland Chamber member that owns the Mack Truck plant in Hagerstown. “That truck they produce is 100-percent made here in the state of Maryland. Volvo hires Marylanders for good paying jobs and good skills jobs,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in its recent summary of the dangers of such tariffs, explained that steel tariffs or quotas can harm American competitiveness in the global market. It cited that U.S. manufacturers using steel employ 40 – 60 times more American workers than U.S. steel facilities, and some of those jobs would be at risk under broad tariffs or other trade and import restrictions.

“Steel and aluminum tariffs are short-sighted approaches,” Ross said. “Analysts and outlets of every political persuasion have been critical of the idea. Congress, the Cabinet, and White House advisers must intervene if they want to spare the American economy from the effects of this move.”

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