Tariffs’ Harm to American Manufacturers Growing | Global Trade Magazine
International Trade
  July 7th, 2018 | Written by

Tariffs’ Harm to American Manufacturers Growing

Difference Between US and Foreign Steel Prices Accelerating

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  • Business Forward’s Latest American Steel Index Report documents harm to US manufactuers from steel tariffs.
  • Difference between US and foreign steel prices grew four percent from May 11 to June 11.
  • Difference between US and foreign steel prices grew by 114 percent since tariff threats began in February.

Business Forward, Inc.’s latest monthly report compares the prices American manufacturers and their foreign competitors pay for hot- and cold-rolled steel.

The national business organization created the index to track how new steel tariffs are affecting American manufacturers competing with manufacturers in countries like the UK, Italy, China, Germany, and Japan.

“Steel prices here in the U.S. began rising when Trump started talking about tariffs eleven months ago, and they took off last quarter when he announced them,” explained Jim Doyle, President of Business Forward. Since February, U.S. steel prices have increased 19 percent, on average. (Hot-rolled steel prices are up 21.5 percent; cold-rolled steel prices are up 17 percent.)

“If steel represented 20 percent of your cost of production in February, and your profit margin was 10 percent, these price increases wiped out more than a third of your profit,” explained Doyle. “You’re left absorbing the loss, raising prices, or laying-off employees.”

Rising prices are particularly hard on manufacturers that export. “Price increases in the US are just half the story,” explained Doyle. “Tariffs here cause surplus steel to flow to Europe, Asia, Canada, and Mexico, which drives their prices down.”

Prices in the UK, Italy, China, Germany, and Japan dropped 3 percent since February, on average. (Hot-rolled steel prices fell by 2.6 percent; cold-rolled steel prices fell 3.5 percent.)

This past month, U.S. manufacturers’ price disadvantage on steel grew to 22.2 percent, on average. (American manufacturers pay 24.1 percent more for hot-rolled steel and 20.5 percent more for cold-rolled steel.) The difference between prices here and in those markets has more than doubled since February (114 percent).

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