Steel, aluminum tariffs could mean more jobs for Berks

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - President Trump has signed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from some countries. Some said it could make the cost of those items rise, but it could also mean good things for job growth.

Pennsylvania ranks in the top 15 states for steel and aluminum imports. In the past, the steel industry thrived in Berks County, and if these tariffs last long enough, it could again, according to experts. Others said it's too soon to know for sure.

Steel imported from anywhere besides Mexico and Canada is going to cost more, with President Trump imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. It's a move that could impact businesses in Berks County.

"Domestic metals now have a much better opportunity to compete against the foreign meals as it relates to a variety of different metal products," said Gary Romig of Summit Steel Manufacturing in Muhlenberg Township.

Romig's company imports steel to make items. He said tariffs on steel will likely trickle down to customers.

"It's definitely going to be a large increase, and no one knows how long it's going to end up if it's going to last," said Romig.

But he said the change could help a dying American steel industry gain life.

"But I am of the opinion that it's good for America to create more jobs here and not be dependent on China," he said.

Tim Blessing, a professor at Alvernia University in Reading, said this move is about politics just as much as it is about economics.

"We are not the players we once were in steel and aluminum, and whether or not we can invoke enough pain, that would give Trump a negotiating lever we don't know," said Blessing.

He said he believes the tariffs won't only impact corporations, but consumers could see an increase in the cost of day to day items like a can of soda and a tube of toothpaste.

As for what it means for jobs, he said, "Whether or not they could then stand the test of time, that is, could they only exist if they had tariffs? I don't know."

President Trump is offering Canada and Mexico a 30-day exemption on the tariff pending the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

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