Steel, aluminum tariffs taking toll on US manufacturers

Global Business

Washington and Beijing may be working in the background to find a compromise on trade, but the latest tariffs are already taking their toll on U.S. companies.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy takes a closer look.

At Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado, 300 cans of beer go speeding down the line each minute. Oskar Blues is the first American craft brewery to can its own beer. Cans are more recyclable than glass bottles, it said, and also keep beer fresher longer.

“It completely eliminates oxygen,” Chad Melis, the marketing director for Oskar Blues Brewery said. “It eliminates light, which are both damaging for beer.”

Up the road in Fort Collins, Colorado Metal Manufacturing, a custom fabrication shop, does a range of jobs for mostly industrial clients.

“Projects that are a little more complicated than a lot of shops are equipped to do,” said Gregg Danson, the owner of Colorado Metal Manufacturing.

Both companies rely on aluminum for their production, a material that’s about to get more expensive.

“Anytime you have an unexpected hike in your cost of doing business,” Melis said, “obviously it hurts, you know.”

A new 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum is President Trump’s attempt to make American aluminum more competitive with lower cost material made overseas.

“It’s about protecting some American jobs,” Alexadre Padilla from the Metropolitan State University of Denver said. “But as an economist I believe this is bad economics.”

Padilla said the tariff will make a number of different aluminum products more expensive, thereby threatening jobs in those industries. He added that it’s the consumers who will ultimately foot the bill.

Oskar Blues figures it’ll cost 400-thousand dollars a year more to buy its cans, some of which also contain free drinking water for communities in need.

“I think it’ll make it a little more challenging for us to grow, add jobs, invest in the communities where we have breweries,” Melis said and added it could make beer more expensive.

Colorado Metal Manufacturing’s Gregg Danson said aluminum prices began climbing before the tariff announcement. That’s forced him to revise quotes already given for upcoming jobs. Aluminum-related orders are down. He wonders how his small company will be affected.

“I think the supply is going to be short,” Danson said. “The cost of material is going to be high.”

Turbulence and uncertainty may mark this part of the economy for a while, he said.