Structural steel framework on new industrial unit
Courtesy Joe Gough via Adobe Stock Structural steel framework on new industrial unit

Today at the White House, President Donald Trump announced plans to sign trade measures that would impose strict tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, a move that has shaken investors and destabilized stocks (the Dow Jones industrial average dipped almost 500 points after Trump's announcement). The decision comes in reaction to a Feb. 16 study published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which stated: "the quantity and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports 'threaten to impair the national security,' as defined by Section 232."

The president announced that the tariffs would be 25 percent for imported steel and 10 percent for imported aluminum, in an effort to support the domestic steel and aluminum industries. Though these sanctions would actualize one of the president's key promises on the campaign trail, the Washington Post warns that, "The president’s move, relying upon a little-used provision of U.S. trade law [Section 232], is expected to trigger immediate legal challenges by U.S. trading partners at the World Trade Organization and invite retaliation against American exports."

The consequences of such strict laws could harm trade relations with countries such as Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and South Korea, who were the largest suppliers of steel to the United States in 2016, according to the New York Times. The U.S. is the world's largest steel importer, according to the International Trade Administration, with 26.9 million metric tons of steel being imported in the first three quarters of 2017 alone.

So far, the announcement of the tariffs have produced mixed reactions from various industries, workers, and policymakers. American steel and aluminum manufacturers have been pushing for stricter policies for years, whereas the construction and automobile industries, among others, would suffer from higher costs that could lead to more expensive products for consumers. "In short, the chassis of a Ford, the body of a Caterpillar bulldozer, the wings of a Boeing aircraft, and the steel girders inside a New York skyscraper are all about to get more expensive," writes Times reporter Neil Irwin.

Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, representing steel companies and workers, was encouraged by Trump's announcement, saying, "The president’s enforcement action must be broad, robust and comprehensive...We urge the president to stand by our nation’s steel communities.”

However, countries who trade with the U.S., as well as American manufacturers who rely on these metals for production are already speaking out against the tariffs. This afternoon, the German Steel Association released a statement saying: “The U.S. is setting up a customs barrier to protect itself from steel imports from all over the world. This measure clearly violates the rules of the World Trade Organization."

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland also released a statement:

Automobile manufacturer Toyota's response to the announcement:

Trump is expected to officially sign the new measures into law next week.