Will Donald Trump’s steel tariffs impact jobs in Northeast Ohio?

March 9, 2018 GMT

Will Donald Trump’s steel tariffs impact jobs in Northeast Ohio?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Area steel producers declined to discuss President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs announced Thursday, but many steel workers said they believe the tariffs would bring back jobs.

Trump is imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. He made the announcement during an afternoon ceremony at the White House, surrounded by steel and aluminum workers. The president said the levies would take effect in about 15 days. Canada and Mexico would be exempted from the taxes.


The tariffs could potentially have an impact in Northeast Ohio. The area is home to several steel facilities, including those owned by ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, Republic Steel in Lorain and the Canton area, The Timken Co. in the Canton area and U.S. Steel in Lorain. Arconic, a spinoff of Alcoa, has production operations in Cleveland. Timken declined to comment to The Plain Dealer about the tariffs. The other companies have not yet responded to The Plain Dealer’s request for comment.

Pat Gallagher, sub-director for the United Steel Workers, said he is hoping the tariffs would put some of his members back to work. He said unfair foreign competition had played a major role in the layoffs of about 500 of the union’s members at U.S. Steel in Lorain and another 700 at Republic Steel, also in Lorain. He is hopeful that tariffs will lead to USW members at those facilities, and at other plants throughout the country, returning to work. (Republic Steel and ERP Iron Ore LLC. announced last month that they would do pig iron production in Lorain by the end of the year, but details – including the projected number of jobs – were not released.)

“This free trade has destroyed us,” Gallagher said. “The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries that consume more steel than they produce. China, Germany, Brazil, etc. specifically make steel to export – not for their own use. That surplus is what has been flooding the world market and depressing prices, and causing these companies in the U.S. to close down plants.”

But not everyone believes tariffs will help the U.S. economy. For example, a report this week by The Trade Partnership consulting firm in Washington, D.C., said that while steel and aluminum employment would increase by 33,464 jobs, tariffs would “cost 179,334 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a net loss of nearly 146,000 jobs.”


The report didn’t take into account the argument made by many opponents of tariffs that other countries would retaliate for the steep tax imposed by the U.S. Gallagher said he doesn’t fear tariffs sparking a trade war capable of causing even more of his members to lose jobs.

“All we have been asking for is a level playing field to help this industry and have jobs for our members,” Gallagher said.

Steel producers in the Cleveland area were among those in the U.S., in recent years, who have gotten the government to impose duties against nations that engage in unfair trade to cope with their steel glut.

Duties are imposed only after investigations reveal unfair trade has occurred. Cases can be brought for two reasons. They can be based on dumping, or whether products were sold in the U.S. for less than they were in their home markets or for less than what they cost to make. Cases also can be brought based on subsidies, or when governments provide unfair support to their steel industries that drives down the cost of product sold in the U.S.

“The U.S. steel industry has been deluged for 40 years with these illegal imports of steel,” Gallagher said. “Countries have been bringing in steel made with free (, or subsidized by their governments,) energy, free water, free utilities and free land.”

Though the USW and most blue-collar unions endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, many of their members supported Trump because he said he would bring back blue-collar jobs. The international union applauded the tariffs.

“The USW – both our U.S. and Canadian membership – has been united in advocating that Canadian production of steel and aluminum not be subject to any tariffs,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard in a news release. “We’ve raised that point at every level of the administration, including with the President. Our supply chains are integrated and, in steel, the United States runs a trade surplus with Canada. Also, our national security interests are inextricably intertwined with a unique defense and intelligence relationship.

“Canada is not one of the countries cheating and is not contributing to the decimation of U.S. production. However, both Canada and Mexico need to take the necessary steps to ensure they do not become points of circumvention for imports into the United States from other nations. This is something our members on both sides of the border have been affected by and it’s time for our allies to join us.”

Plain Dealer Reporter Marcia Pledger contributed to this report and information from the Associated Press was included.