Trump plans for steel potential problem for Port NOLA

Steel makes up 30% of port's tonnage

Chris Miller
March 02, 2018 - 12:22 pm

President Donald Trump is talking about using tariffs to limit imported steel and aluminum. The declaration is escalating tension with trading partners including China and the European Union, but the president insists other countries are already treating the U.S. unfairly with their trade policies.

The president said in a Twitter post that "trade wars are good, and easy to win," but UNO economist Dr. Walter "Dub" Lane practically scoffed at the statement.

"Nobody wins a trade war, everybody loses," said Lane. "In general, economists believe the net number in jobs would be a reduction in jobs if you do these kinds of tariffs." 

Nearly a third of Port NOLA's total tonnage is imported steel, according to a statement from Brandy Christian, Port NOLA President and CEO.

"Port NOLA imported 2.48 million tons of steel in fiscal year 2017," she said. "Port NOLA also imported 665,154 tons of aluminum traded on the London Metals Exchange."

Christian said when President George W. Bush took similar action in 2002, it caused a 46 percent decline in steel imports at the port.

Lane said domestic steel makers may benefit, but protectionist tariffs would have an impact that would ripple beyond business at the port.

"Effectively, what this does is raises the price of steel," said Lane. "What about all the other industries that buy steel and turn it into automobiles and appliances and everything else? All of those are going to see their costs go up, and so who's going to pay for this is the American consumer."

Lane says the countries that import these materials to the U.S. are also likely to respond with punitive tariffs of their own on goods the U.S. exports to them.

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