US metal manufacturers mobilize against Trump tariffs

The American Institute for International Steel, an industry body representing companies that depend on steel imports, sued the Trump administration last week before the US Court of International Trade in New York, challenging the legality of the steel tariffs. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018

US metal manufacturers mobilize against Trump tariffs

  • US President Donald Trump in March slapped duties of 25 on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum
  • The American Institute for International Steel sued the Trump administration last week before the US Court of International Trade in Yew York

WASHINGTON: Feeling the pinch from President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies, the American metal industry has rallied its forces to plead for changes.
Employees from the Texas steel pipe producer Borusan Mannesmann Pipe sent some 4,500 post cards to Trump and members of Congress, on behalf of their employer in the Houston suburb of Baytown — which imports unfinished pipes from Turkey.
Trump in March slapped duties of 25 on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, and at the start of June removed temporary exemptions for major producers Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
While Trump says the border taxes protect US national security and have breathed life into time-ravaged American producers, about 21,000 businesses have sought exemptions from the tariffs for foreign-made goods, arguing that the duties threaten their import-dependent bottom lines.
But three months after the first requests, the government has reviewed only 98, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in recent congressional testimony. Of these, just 42 were approved.
BMP CEO Joel Johnson was among the very first business leaders to seek product exemptions for the Houston pipe company. But when he got no response, he decided to make his case directly, along with thousands of others.
“We made an offer to President Trump and Secretary Ross which was very simple,” he said.
“We did a request for a two-year exemption of the tariffs to allow us to build a new factory in Baytown and at the end of these two years we will stop importing and we will be 100 percent US-made pipe.”
The proposition should appeal to Trump, given his “America first” agenda, said Johnson, adding that it would bring his workforce to 437 people from 267.
In Baytown, unemployment is two and a half times the national average at 10 percent, and Johnson warned the company will be forced to lay workers off if it faces an annual hit of $25 million to $35 million from the tariffs.
Republican Texas lawmaker Brian Babin made the same case to Ross last week.
Others are opting to play hardball.
The American Institute for International Steel, an industry body representing companies that depend on steel imports, sued the Trump administration last week before the US Court of International Trade in New York, challenging the legality of the steel tariffs.
The organization is calling on the courts to strike down the 1962 legal provision Trump used to impose the new duties, claiming it is unconstitutional.
Sometimes called the “national security clause,” Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the US president extraordinary powers over foreign trade, a power the US Constitution generally confers on Congress.
“Section 232 allows the president to consider virtually any effect on the US economy as part of ‘national security,’” AIIS President Richard Chriss said in a statement.
The federation says many American business are suffering under the tariffs while ports and workers have seen a sharp decline in their businesses’ throughput.
So far, the Federal Reserve system’s regional manufacturing indices show general manufacturing activity remains quite healthy by historical standards.
But steel prices have risen sharply and fast. In October, a ton of hot-rolled steel coil went for $577, its lowest level in a year, Johnson said.
As of Friday, it was closing in on twice that at just under $917.
As the metal tariffs battle rages, a second set of Trump tariffs on Chinese goods is due to take effect July 6, while US businesses are being hit with retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico, the EU and China.
The Trump administration also announced in late May it was considering using Section 232 to slap duties on the hundreds of billions in autos imported annually, a prospect economists say would make America’s trade wars far more serious.


Saudi Arabia raises more than SR15bn in bond sale

Updated 28 March 2020

Saudi Arabia raises more than SR15bn in bond sale

  • Gulf oil exporters are increasingly turning to debt sales to help fund spending in a low oil price environment

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has sold more than SR15 billion in Islamic bonds, as the Kingdom seeks to develop its local debt market.

The Kingdom’s Finance Ministry said on Friday that it had closed the book to investors on its March 2020 riyal-denominated sukuk program.

The total amount raised by the sukuk sale was SR15.568 billion, divided into three tranches that mature in five, 10 and 30 years.

Gulf oil exporters are increasingly turning to debt sales to help fund spending in a low oil price environment while at the same time developing their own capital markets as part of ongoing diversification reforms.

“The closure of the issuance of government bonds exceeding 15 billion riyals shows many positive elements,” said Abdullah Ahmad Al-Maghlouth, a member of the Saudi Economic Society. 

“Such as confirming the robustness of the Kingdom’s credit rating and the strength of the Saudi economy; that the Kingdom’s debt-to-GDP ratio is still far lower than many other G20 countries; the Finance Ministry’s ability to deal with the requirements of asset and liability management; as well as the Kingdom’s strong foreign-exchange reserves in dollars, among others.”

The Kingdom’s strong credit rating means it can borrow more cheaply than many other Mideast economies despite a weaker oil price.

Economic analyst Fahd Al-Thunayan said: “The Ministry of Finance, represented by the National Debt Management Center, continued its efforts in developing local debt markets and providing the required balance in financing public-budget expenditures, through the optimal mixture of the use of reserves and borrowing within the upper limits, like a percentage of the GDP, where the local issuances reached 65 percent of the total debt in the year 2019.”