Money Matters: The nuts and bolts of new tariffs

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President Trump this week ordered tariffs on steel and aluminum imports coming to the US from anywhere other than Canada and Mexico.

The move imposes tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Currently, Canada is the largest supplier of these goods to the US, and that trade won’t be affected.

Many stories about the change are focusing on how trading partners who will be subject to the tariffs are reacting, with several countries unhappy that it will be less lucrative to sell their steel and aluminum to customers in the US.

But what does this mean for consumers’ wallets? Some local outlets are asking this question, and you should too. In addition to affecting other countries’ interest in trading with the US, the changes could impact US consumers’ jobs, businesses and wallets.

On its face, the tariffs could be bad for consumers of aluminum and steel products, for whom imported products will become more expensive. We’ve previously examined this trend after new tariffs on solar panels and washing machines have affected consumers.

But it’s a little more complex for commodities like steel and aluminum, which are used in many industries and consumer goods. The effects are likely to vary across industries and geography.

For example, the change could be good for workers in industrial cities where steel and aluminum plants may expand as they become more competitive compared to now higher-priced foreign goods. Is this an industry in your area, or could it be? Has your industry historically been a steel or aluminum hub negatively affected by lower-priced foreign options?

What about other industries in your area? Energy and utility companies have said this could increase their costs. Could those costs be passed on to consumers? Could this affect workers in your area? Talk to your local gas, electric, or oil companies.

Building contractors have also expressed concern that if steel prices go up due to tariffs, construction projects may be put on hold. But here, too, the effects could depend on your geography, as different regions and states get their steel locally, or from Canada or Mexica, which are not affected by the new tariffs. Talk to your local construction companies to find out how the change could affect them.

What about the regular consumer buying aluminum cans? Here’s an example of an interesting look at how the change could affect local craft brewing, something many consumers could also be affected by more directly.

For a potentially complex economic topic like tariffs on imported commodities, localizing can be a great avenue to help your audience understand the changes and how their wallets may be affected.

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