Plastics groups say Trump steel tariffs could cost industry jobs

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The Plastics Industry Association Carteaux

Washington — Plastics and chemical industry trade groups are coming out in opposition to President Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying they could cost jobs in plastics companies and be “devastating” to the industry by raising costs for mold makers and machinery companies.

While some aspects of the tariffs remain unclear, the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association said on its twitter feed that its president and CEO, Bill Carteaux, opened the group’s board meeting March 8 urging the plastics industry to oppose the tariffs.

The association said it was mounting a campaign asking members to email or contact Congress to say tariffs could raise costs and jeopardize economic momentum from the administration’s recent tax cut package.

“Across-the-board tariffs on these materials could dramatically increase costs for the segments of the plastics industry that depend on them-costs that would be passed down through the supply chain to other plastics companies, manufacturers, businesses and, ultimately, to consumers,” the association said in a March 7 letter to President Trump.

“This would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the plastics industry and the economy as a whole,” it said. On its website, it called the tariffs “devastating to our businesses and our industry.”

A March 8 White House fact sheet said the move is needed to protect national security.

“The action I’m taking today follows a 9-month investigation by the Department of Commerce, Secretary Ross, documenting a growing crisis in our steel and aluminum production that threatens the security of our nation, and also is bad for us economically and with jobs,” Trump said in a White House announcement March 8.

“The American steel and aluminum industry has been ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices,” he said.

Still, Trump said Canada and Mexico would be given exemptions from the tariffs at least while renegotiations over the North America Free Trade Agreement are underway, and he indicated openness to talking with other countries about modifying the tariffs.

But in the end, he said he wants to boost jobs in the two metals industries.

Carteaux said in his letter, however, that he believes the tariffs would “cost American thousands of manufacturing jobs in fields like plastics, which depend on steel and aluminum to manufacture products.”

Carteaux said last year’s tax package pushed by the Trump administration could have a “historic impact” on manufacturing and he said the administration’s economic policies have been “positive force” for the plastics industry.

But he argued that the tariffs would be a “significant step in the wrong direction.”

“The U.S. plastics industry urges this Administration not to throw those gains away for a set of tariffs that would only wind up hurting the people they’re aimed at protecting,” he said.

The Washington-based American Chemistry Council has also argued against the planned tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, saying in a March 1 statement that it could raise costs and put some of the $185 billion in planned investment in new chemical factories at risk.

ACC has also warned of risks from other countries retaliating with their own tariffs against U.S. chemical and plastic resin experts, since the U.S. has a sizable trade surplus globally in those materials.

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