Are you a U.S. steel or aluminum manufacturer, or are you a U.S. manufacturer that uses steel or aluminum? The answer to that question is the determining factor in your opinion of President Trump's March 8 order establishing a 25 percent tariff on most imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on most imported aluminum.
Trump was surrounded by steel and aluminum workers when he signed the order, and their approval was seconded by Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturers, an association whose members include the major U.S. steel manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.
"We hope the era of American trade surrender is coming to an end," Paul said after the signing.
"Steel and aluminum workers are already being hired back, and as the result of stronger industries, we believe these will be the first of many new jobs created in America's manufacturing communities," he said.
However, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association expressed exactly the opposite opinion. Anne Forristall Luke, USTMA president and CEO, wrote to the president on March 7 urging him to reconsider the tariff order.
The process to make tire-quality steel rod is almost nonexistent in the U.S., Luke said—the USTMA's consistent message since the steel and aluminum investigation began last year.
"Any actions that curtail the availability of the supply of tire cord or tire-cord-quality steel wire potentially could have a cascading negative impact on U.S. commerce, since the transportation industry and the military depend on a reliable supply of tires to ship goods around the country," she said.
The USW organizes tire workers as well as steelworkers. If there has been any disagreement between them up to now on tariffs, we haven't heard of it. But given the sharp difference of opinion between steel and tire manufacturers, the possibility has to be considered, especially if U.S. tire manufacturing and employment suffer because of tariffs.
In any case, the U.S. has a great deal riding on Trump's actions. The results, however it plays out, are unlikely to make all the stakeholders happy.