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President Trump’s plan to place tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum has drawn dire warnings of starting a trade war. But the U.S. is already in a trade war, one that it is losing badly, says Made in America Again founder James A. Stuber. In his recent book, “What if Things Were Made in America Again”, Stuber describes how China and other countries use subsidies, low labor standards, lax regulations, and trade barriers to consistently sell far more to the U.S. than they buy.
Regarding the hue and cry that has arisen in opposition to the announced steel and aluminum tariffs, Stuber said:
“It is disheartening to see how quick many U.S. companies are to throw under the bus those companies farther upstream in the supply chain, just to protect their own niche. But they are mistaken if they believe that they are not themselves vulnerable to the foreign competition: the Chinese and the other mercantilists want to occupy the entire supply chain, especially in high value-added products. This is all spelled out in China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ plan.
“I don’t understand why we are hearing such vociferous objections to paying a fair price for steel, one that includes paying workers a living family wage and a modest profit for the company.
“I don’t understand why so many of us are ready to write off entire sectors of the American economy just so other sectors can enjoy the low prices resulting from unfair foreign competition.
“At the strategic level, we must realize the necessity of self-sufficiency in such critical sectors as steel and aluminum.
“At the human level, we must understand the devastating effects we are visiting upon individuals, families and communities. In my book, I provide the example of the U.S. Steel mill in Granite City, which closed in the face of Chinese overcapacity, idling its 2,000 workers. At the worst, one worker committed suicide. More typically, one worker told his son he could not return for his junior year to complete college, as his sister had before him.”
In the postscript to his book, Stuber posed the question:
Will the U.S. Steel mill in Granite City reopen? Or will it fall victim to the Chinese overcapacity in steel, and remain silent? I believe it is a metaphor for our future. As goes that mill, so will go our country.
With the announcement of the steel and aluminum tariffs, U.S. Steel announced that it would restart two of the blast furnaces at the Granite City mill, returning 500 of the 2,000 laid-off employees to work.
But what of the 1,500 other workers? “This is only a first step,” Stuber said, “and it demonstrates that policy, while important, is not sufficient. The only true relief will come when American consumers buy automobiles and washing machines made with the steel from plants like the one in Granite City.
“The only true relief will come when we realize we’re already in a trade war, and only consumers can win it.”
About Made in America Again
Made in America Again is a movement of consumers dedicated to rebuilding the American middle class by buying things made in American communities (www.madeinamericaagain.org). Its founder is James Stuber, author of the 2017 book, “What if Things Were Made in America Again” (www.themadeinamericabook.com). Stuber is an attorney and entrepreneur who formerly served as legislative assistant to a member of the United States House of Representatives.