Biden Likely to Keep Steel Tariffs, If Not Use Them for Climate Agenda

Biden Likely to Keep Steel Tariffs, If Not Use Them for Climate Agenda a furnace burns and workers wearing helmets stand by Workers make steel at the NLMK Indiana mill on March 15, 2018 in Portage, Indiana. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Sunday, 18 April 2021 08:28 AM

Steel tariffs were an unpopular move to some by former President Donald Trump, but President Joe Biden is showing no inclination to scrap the metal import tax. In fact, he might expand them to press his climate change agenda.

"They like the power they have and the potential to use the law for their goals: In this case, climate is the big one," Cato Institute attorney Scott Lincicome told the Post.

While there is a glut of cheap steel production worldwide, the U.S. steel industry is struggling with supply limitations and soaring prices amid the tariffs Trump imposed to revitalize a struggling sector in the name of national security.

"It's not great for us," Eagle Metals President Charles Bernard, 64, told The Washington Post. "The tariffs were a blunt instrument, but we need a domestic steel industry."

Rewarding China's government subsidies of its growing steel mining industry is not yet a move the Biden administration appears ready to make, keeping the 25% tariffs on steel and 10% tariffs on aluminum a leveraging tool.

"China's not going to roll back capacity just because you ask them to," United Steelworkers Union President Tom Conway told the Post.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo admitted earlier this year, the tariffs "helped save American jobs in the steel and aluminum industries."

"The conditions in the steel market no longer support the need for these tariffs," B. Walter and Co. President Scott Buehrer told the Post. "In fact, their continuation jeopardizes the future of the U.S. steel industry due the situation this has placed their customers in."

As Trump's Section 232 tariffs continue to be longer than temporary, the U.S. steel industry might be coming to Biden for some help, too.

"The 232 isn't going anywhere," Vogel Group Samir Kapadia told the Post.

And the Biden push for infrastructure might exacerbate the U.S. supply shortages.

"These supply issues are only going to get worse if the infrastructure bill passes and the demand for domestic steel spikes even higher," Eagle Metals Vice President Brian Murphy told the Post. "Lead times and availability will be a serious issue for U.S. manufacturers."

The price of steel has more than tripled since a pandemic-induced low in August of $1,350 and is now up 57% since the start of the Trump tariffs, according to the report.

"We just want to have the same pricing as our competitors," Murphy said. "[The tariff] makes us the high cost producer."

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