Planned US metal tariffs rattle workers at Wisconsin canning factory


U.S. President Donald Trump is facing pressure from members of his own party to cancel the tariff plan — or narrow it.

Many Republican lawmakers fear it could lead to a global trade war. Others warn tariffs threaten jobs in the United States. It’s a real fear in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.

CGTN’s Dan Williams visited the state, where thousands of manufacturing jobs rely on steel and aluminum as raw materials.

A busy afternoon at a canning factory in Janesville, Wisconsin as hundreds of cans of food roll off the production line. But President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports has caused concern.

Some fear such a move will only increase the price of metals, making these products less competitive. Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is among those to publicly condemn the move.

“What we are trying to do is protect jobs here in America, particularly here in Wisconsin,” Gov. Walker said.

“When you look at tin plate steel and ultra-thin aluminum, in both cases there is a very limited amount of capacity to produce either of those two things here in the United States. And that just means that each of these companies will have to pay more. That is not just going to cost the company money, that is going to cost them jobs. We are just making the case that it will backfire,” Walker said.

The tariffs could benefit some U.S. steelworkers. The U.S. Steel Corporation announced it will restart one of two blast furnaces and steel-making facilities in Illinois. The impact on other metal using manufacturers could be far-reaching.

According to a study by Trade Partnership Worldwide, similar tariffs imposed by former President George W. Bush in 2002 caused 200,000 job losses nationwide.

The message, from this factory at least appears to be clear – there is a real fear that these new import tariffs could increase expense that may in turn cost jobs. But the potential implications threaten to run much deeper than that.

The likes of the European Union are already preparing to retaliate with tariffs of their own on U.S. products. The EU Trade Commissioner plans to take the case to the World Trade Organization and rally trade partners against the U.S. proposal. Many economists warn a trade war could severely damage the U.S. economy.