It was not immediately clear whether Trump would exempt some countries from the tariffs, although the policy he announced is not yet ready to be implemented.
President Trump said Thursday he would sign an order next week to impose 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum, a move that could slow down infrastructure projects.
He promised U.S. manufacturers that they will “have protection for a long time .… You’ll have to regrow your industries. That’s all I’m asking.”
“We are going to have much more vibrant companies,” Trump added during a listening session with several top U.S. manufacturing executives.
Industry reaction was mixed, with construction folks warning that such a measure could slow down building of infrastructure projects while some manufacturers said it would shore up American economy, helping create new jobs and preserving national security.
Associated General Contractors of America had earlier called on the White House and federal agencies to avoid triggering a “trade war.” The officials said tariffs on steel and aluminum would undermine the administration’s goals of dramatically boosting infrastructure investment and achieving sustained higher economic growth.
“Making construction, infrastructure and development projects more expensive by imposing new trade barriers will do far more damage to the economy than any limited benefits new tariffs or quotas might provide,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.
“Worse, increasing the cost of construction will only undermine the President’s ambitions to rebuild the nation’s aging and over-burdened infrastructure.”
Construction spending in January was unchanged from December and was moderately higher than in January 2017, according to an analysis of new government data by the Association. Further gains, especially in desperately needed infrastructure investment, would be in jeopardy if the administration adopts tariffs on key construction materials such as steel.
Meanwhile, Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) President Scott Paul said:
“President Trump made an encouraging show of support when he met with steel industry executives today. Now it’s time to act on the Section 232 investigation.”
“We’re on the brink of a potentially historic rebalance of America’s trade priorities. As we noted in a letter to the president this week and our cable TV ad, we are confident a robust steel trade action is good for our economy. A decision to restore sanity to global steel markets will help create domestic jobs and preserve our national security.
“But to achieve those results, the president’s enforcement action must be broad, robust and comprehensive. We urge the president to stand by our nation’s steel communities. They are counting on him to follow through on this.”
Earlier via Twitter, the President said: “Our steel and aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!”
The president has been weighing various options to limit imported aluminum and steel, which accounts for about one-fourth of American consumption and has left domestic mills running well below capacity. A decision to impose tariffs or quotas would represent one of Trump’s strongest actions to overhaul U.S. trade practices that he has sharply criticized for causing industrial decline and loss of jobs.
According to news reports, many have opposed this measure including the President’s economic advisers arguing that the protectionist measures would lead to damaging retaliation from other countries and unsettle global markets. The President’s national security and defense advisers are said to have warned about harmful impacts on steel-producing US allies.