Steel, aluminum tariffs stir up controversy in the Northland - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Steel, aluminum tariffs stir up controversy in the Northland

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The new steel and aluminum tariffs President Donald Trump signed a proclamation to impose on Thursday will have a big impact on the Northland. 

Iron Range leaders are applauding the decision for the boost it will give to the mines, but not everyone's happy.

The Iron Mining Association (IMA) says Northeastern Minnesota produces 85% of domestic iron, directly contributing $1.8 billion to the state's economy.

The IMA says the new tariffs will help the industry thrive by lessening demand for cheaper, subsidized steel from other countries.

"These nations are not going to stop producing this steel that they are able to produce," said Kelsey Johnson, president of the IMA. "So that's the reason why this across-the-board tariffs is a good move because what we're seeing now is there's going to be more pressure on them to stop producing as much as there's not demand for their product."

But across the state line, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson says he's concerned for the manufacturers who are buying steel.

"The price of their base product will increase and so their ability to compete globally will be decrease," said Senator Johnson. "And so it threatens jobs across the board, any business that actually utilizes road steel aluminum." 

The IMA says the tariffs are also good for the shipping industry on the Great Lakes.

"We send that iron throughout the Great Lakes system to produce the steel that is used everyday in everyone's cars, refrigerators, microwaves, buildings that they have their offices and schools in, and the bridges they cross everyday," said Kelsey.

Senator Johnson, though, disagrees.

He said, "if exports decrease, imports decrease you're going to have a whole lot less port traffic so the revenues to ports in Duluth-Superior will also decrease."

He says he's also concerned the tariffs could spark a potential trade war. 

"These types of trade wars, protectionism threatens a culture exports, threatens manufacturing exports. But we're really not addressing the root cause of this problem which is really the tremendous over capacity of steel production in China. If you can target that, that would be a worthy goal."

On the other hand, Kelsey with IMA said, "I'd like to ask the Canadian consulate to join the United States in adding tariffs primarily because I believe it would be a strategic movement away from these cheater nations who have been cheating and illegally dumping their steel on our shores for the past many years and driving our prices further down."

While republican Senator Johnson opposes the new tariffs, the republican running for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District seat is very much for them.

Following the imposed tariffs, Pete Stauber said in a statement,

"Today is a great day for Northeast Minnesota. I fully support President Trump’s decision to introduce a 25% tariff on foreign steel. Millions of tons of sub-par foreign steel is being dumped into the U.S. marketplace threatening our economic and national security. This tariff will create a level playing field for Americans making it possible for thousands of Iron Range miners to get back to work.”

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