By Gareth Sleger
It’s been almost a year since President Don- ald Trump imposed the Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, an act he considered to be a matter of national security and
The Section 232 tariffs include a 10 percent
aluminum tariff and 25 percent steel tariff that
have been levied against most countries, including longtime close trading allies Mexico, Canada,
and the European Union—which have all responded with retaliatory tariffs against the U.S.
So now that nearly 365 days have passed, how
have the tariffs played out for metal fabricators
and other metalworkers, and what does it all
mean for the future? Well, no one is exactly sure
on the latter question, but many in the industry
know Section 232 is not benefiting metal fabricators as increased costs trickle down through the
That was the consensus from the “232 Tariffs
and Quotas: The Mechanism of Protection” panel discussion, which took place March 6 during
the FMA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said
panelist Andrew Gross, president and CEO of Bed-
ford Park, Ill.-based Alliance Steel. “If somebody in
the room could tell us, there’d be common peace.
There’s just going to be disruption throughout the
market until we have a clear path.”
That ambiguity is emphasized by failed at-
tempts to end the tariffs over the past year.
During the G20 summit in Argentina this past
November, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed
to a new trade deal, the United States-Mexico-
Canada Agreement (USMCA), to replace NAF-
TA. There was hope the new trade agreement,
which is yet to be approved by the U.S. Congress,
would include Section 232 protections for Can-
ada and Mexico. But that’s not the case, as the
tariffs would remain if USMCA is implemented.
And in mid-March United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the U.S.
is attempting to work out a way to lift the steel
and aluminum tariffs against Mexico and Canada. But there hasn’t been a detailed explanation
how exactly to resolve Section 232 stress.
That has only added to the uncertainty hang-
ing over the metal fabrication industry, said pan-
elist and Washington D.C.-based trade attorney
“Each time I talk to a group of businesspeople
like yourselves, the one word that keeps coming
up is ‘certainty.’ Everyone craves it,” Leibowitz
said. “And while we never have perfect certainty,
government action impacts the level of comfort.
But the problem now is that the 232 tariffs are
simply too thin a reed to base a sustainable mar-
Leibowitz went on to point out that the Sec-
tion 232 tariffs have benefited only a select few
in the U.S. steel supply chain—large steel mills.
“There are two worlds here,” Leibowitz said
to the audience in the Westin Nashville hotel
banquet hall. “There’s the above-the-line group,
which includes a relatively small number of com-
The impact of Section 232 tariffs
Discussion panel highlights disruptive impact steel, aluminum
tariffs have had on metal fabricators, manufacturers
Vince Pappalardo (left), managing director at Brown
Gibbons Lang & Company, moderates the “232 Tariffs
and Quotas: The Mechanism of Protection” panel
discussion, which took place on March 6 during the FMA
Annual Meeting in Nashville. Panelists include, from left,
Washington D.C.-based trade attorney Lewis Leibowitz;
Piyush Sood of Morgan Stanley; Kooima Co. owner Phil
Kooima; and Alliance Steel President Andy Gross.