How the Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Will Affect Pittsburgh


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Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

Last week, President Trump confirmed the institution of new tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Essentially, this means that all foreign countries (with the exception of Mexico and Canada) will have to pay a special tax to sell those metals to the United States. This is meant to discourage their overseas import, instead nudging manufacturers in the direction of domestic production. More than likely, this is specifically aimed at China, which accounts for 49% of steel and 54% of aluminum in the entire world and which has allegedly been cheating the system already in place. And while Trump has alluded to the possibility of loosening the regulations, the issue as it stands has generated polarizing political debate.

Typical supporters of the President, even leaders of the Republican Party such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have lambasted the tariffs for their economic ramifications outside of the industries it protects; meanwhile others, including much of the general public, have extolled them and their seemingly pro-America intentions.

For Pittsburgh, the policy will chiefly affect two companies in particular: U.S. Steel, one of the country’s largest steel manufacturers, and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, responsible for pipes throughout the city. For the former, the tariffs will presumably be beneficial, as buyers of steel, namely the automobile industry, will have more reason to purchase their materials from suppliers at home; that being said, the corporation does have operations in Central Europe that will be affected by the changes. For the latter, the situation is a bit more unclear, and probably not as drastic; certain pipes and machinery will become slightly more expensive, but not so to the point of any substantial impact.

But whatever the results locally, the numbers show that on a nationwide scale consequences could be extremely dangerous. For starters, 80 times as many workers are employed in fields that utilize steel than those in fields who produce it, meaning costs will rise across the board and wages will be forced to take a hit. Experts say that prices on goods that require steel or aluminum could inflate by as much as half of a cent on the dollar, a fraction that may seem nominal when considering a can of soup, for example, but one that on a car that will make a significant difference. At the end of the day, the relatively small amount of job growth that the region may experience as a result of the tariffs is far outweighed by their detrimental effects on the country as a whole.