HVAC industry learns to grapple with steel tariffs
I can’t think of a recent topic that has generated more news or interest among Snips readers than the steel tariffs the president enacted March 23.
We’ve covered the story extensively on www.Snipsmag.com in the last two months, from industry reaction to online polls and coverage of President Donald Trump’s tweets on the topic.
So when I was preparing this month’s issue, I thought it was an excellent time to delve into the subject. The tariffs don’t appear as if they’ll be going away anytime soon, and the impact on many sectors of the sheet metal and HVAC industry has been almost immediate.
For this month’s cover story, I spoke to contractors, steel suppliers, sheet metal machinery manufacturers as well as officials with industry associations. As you’ll see in the story that starts on page 16, the tariffs have elicited strong reactions from people on both sides of this issue. Our own informal online polling shows that the tariffs are popular with many readers. However, I don’t think everyone realized that tariffs aimed at imported products would drive up costs even for contractors who say they proudly source all their metal from the U.S.
According to many of the company officials I spoke to for the story, the price of domestic steel commonly used in duct fabrication is about 25 percent higher than it was before the tariffs were announced. One contractor on our Facebook page said he’s seeing price spikes of 35 percent. That has some steel buyers wondering if the tariffs are already backfiring.
As Don Modesitt, a product manager with Hercules Industries told me, “Once you go beyond that 25 percent, then you open the door for foreign steel to come back into the market.”
Meanwhile, there’s the potential of tariffs spreading far beyond steel and aluminum. China has announced a long list of popular U.S. exports its targeting for retaliatory taxes and the White House said it may slap new tariffs on HVAC equipment from China.
A recent report from University of Michigan economists said a trade war with China could cost 200,000 U.S. jobs over the next three years.
Several countries have been given exemptions to the steel tariffs, including Mexico, Canada and the European Union. However, these exemptions are not permanent or open-ended. Since the White House is using the exemptions as a negotiating tactic on several trade issues, they could be expired — or extended — by the time you see this.
I don’t think there will be any shortage of news on this topic anytime soon.
For another perspective on the steel tariffs, you may want to check out an article on the Snips’ duct fabrication and assembly info center website. I spoke to officials with Mestek Machinery about how the tariffs are affecting its business. As a large maker of sheet metal machinery that is used in shops across the country and around the world, steel and aluminum prices are a huge concern. You can read the article at https://bit.ly/2wVHdjl.
I’d love to know what you think of the tariffs and if they’re affecting your business. You can respond to one of the many stories on the topic that are on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SnipsMag) or email me at email@example.com.