Steel, Aluminum Tariffs Create Fluctuating Market for Local Industries

04/11/2018 6:09pm

Written by: Jade McDowell, East Oregonian

New tariffs on steel and aluminum have been suspended for several of the United States’ biggest trading partners until May as details are being worked out, leaving many economists and industries still guessing on what the final impacts will be.

“It’s one of those ‘you’re going to have to kind of wait and see’ cases,” said Dallas Fridley, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department.

The tariffs, announced by President Donald Trump in March, impose a 25 percent tax on imported steel and 10 percent tax on imported aluminum. The European Union, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, South Korea, Canada and Mexico have all received temporary exemptions until May 1 in exchange for meeting certain conditions, including quotas on exports to the U.S. The Washington Post reported the exemptions granted so far represent about half of all steel imports into the United States.

Fridley, an employment economist, said any industry that uses steel or aluminum could be affected by higher prices. That ranges from local construction firms to farm equipment manufacturers to brewers who use aluminum cans for packaging.

One industry directly affected is metal fabrication. Aaron Karlson, general manager of NW Metal Fabricators in Hermiston, said talk of the tariffs has made the steel and aluminum markets extremely volatile for the past few months. While suppliers usually let their quotes on steel and aluminum stand for at least a week, Karlson said lately they have been…

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