Monday, December 23, 2019

It's now obvious that President Trump's steel tariff didn't work

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2019 at 11:07 AM

click to enlarge JON REHG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Jon Rehg /

Last year, President Donald Trump used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum without Congressional approval, citing national security.

But with last week's announcement that Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. was laying off more than 1,500 employees at its Detroit area steel mills next year, it's obvious the tariff didn't work.  

For a time, it appeared that it would. As PBS News Hour reported in November, steel prices skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath of the tariff announcement. But then, the steelmakers went on an expansion spree — what Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Timna Tanners described to PBS as "Steelmageddon."

"We're shooting ourselves in the foot now because of all the extra capacity being built," a former steelworker told PBS.

Within a year, prices jumped from $650 per ton to more than $900 per ton, and then down to $500 per ton — lower than what they were before the tariff was imposed. The industry was also hurt by the fact that steel from Canada, Mexico, and Australia was exempt from the tariff.

In all, the entire industry only added some 1,800 jobs since February 2018, the month before the tariffs took effect — "a mere rounding error in a job market of 152 million and over a period when U.S. companies overall added nearly 4 million workers," as PBS reported. (The industry employs only 142,000, or 10,000 fewer people than it did five years ago. By contrast, Home Depot employs 400,000.)

"Anyone that understood economics knew there was no way (Trump's steel tariffs) would work any longer than a year," Ned Hill, a professor at Ohio State University who studies economic development, told PBS.

Even Forbes said, "The national security argument is a sham and everyone knows it."

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

Tags: , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 7, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation