IN Steelmakers Push Feds to Preserve Trump-era Tariff Policy

By Jonah Chester • Indiana News Service

Indiana steel producers are pushing President Joe Biden to leave in place a tariff on foreign-made steel adopted during the Trump administration.

In 2018, former President Donald Trump placed a 25% levy on imported steel, in a bid to stabilize domestic production.

Nathan Fraser, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel Indiana, said the move gave companies confidence to reinvest in their operations, including a planned $290 million expansion of Nucor’s Crawfordsville plant. Fraser noted it will add 75 or more jobs in the next two years.

“These investments that Nucor and other Indiana steel producers are making are transforming our old Rust Belt into a hub for a modern, sustainable steel industry that’s going to be providing the advanced, ‘clean steel’ products that our nation needs to build for the 21st century,” Fraser asserted.

The Biden administration has rolled back the blanket 25% tariffs over the past several months, in an effort to ease supply-chain woes. New agreements with the European Union and Japan call for tariff rate quotas, where higher levels of imports come with higher tariffs, a measure the administration said will prevent those nations from flooding U.S. markets with steel.

Heather Ennis, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum, agreed the Trump-era tariffs have created stability for Hoosier plants, which accounted for more than a quarter of the nation’s overall steel production in 2020, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Indiana has been the number one steel producer in the U.S. for the past 40 years.

“To be able to have some certainty and to know that they have the resources available to be able to put more money into plants, upgrades and things like that, is really very beneficial for our economy here in northwest Indiana,” Ennis contended.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., is also pushing to keep the tariffs in place, and said they are an important measure to support U.S. steel. He argued import quota agreements with allied countries can be managed while protecting domestic steel production, but when it comes to more hostile nations, he said the administration should move carefully.

“Dealing with Japan and the E.U. is a much different venture, because it’s got a little bit of a handshake and trust to it,” Braun explained. “I don’t know if there’s any of that with the relationship with China.”

According to the World Steel Association, China is the number one producer of steel in the world, although its production outstrips domestic demand. In August 2021, China produced more than 83 million tons of steel, compared to 7.5 million tons in the U.S.