Tariff uncertainty weighs on business

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Tariffs could cause the cost of aluminum, which is used to make fishing boats like this one, to rise sharply

Tariffs could cause the cost of aluminum, which is used to make fishing boats like this one, to rise sharply

At the beginning of the week the Trump administration said it would suspend tariffs on China, only to reverse course once again on Tuesday with the announcement that it would move forward on steel and aluminum tariffs on China.

“It’s hard to comment because things change every day,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today. “What business loves is certainty from our government and we’re not getting it, at least in the realm of trade.”

A rise in U.S. prices has come ahead of the June 1 deadline for many major exporting countries to negotiate deals that would at least partially exempt them from the Trump administration’s decision to impose steel import tariffs of 25 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The price of American steel has now risen to its highest since a China-led demand boom a decade ago — it has surged nearly 40 percent this year.

This week, the benchmark U.S. Midwest price for hot-rolled coil broke above $890 a short ton for the first time since October 2008. It is now almost 50 percent above equivalent benchmarks in Europe and China, the newspaper reported, attributing the information to S&P Global Platts data.

Though steel prices don’t typically have large effects on the marine industry, aluminum prices do.

Aluminum boatbuilders employ 22,000 workers. There are 111,000 powerboats sold each year, accounting for $3 billion in sales, the NMMA says.

The NMMA cautioned the marine industry not to become complacent after President Trump’s announcement Monday.

“There is still tremendous uncertainty surrounding U.S. trade policy, which means we need to keep our heads down and continue to push our industry’s position,” said NMMA government and legal affairs senior vice president Nicole Vasilaros in a statement.

“We must continue to fight multiple threats in the current trade climate — an antidumping and countervailing duty investigation on Chinese aluminum sheet, Section 232 tariff on all aluminum and steel imports, Section 301 on marine engines and components, and the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA,” said Vasilaros.

Those are in addition to the previously-announced countervailing tariffs.

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