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June 25, 2018
Politics & Co.

Maine businesses ‘feeling the pain’ of new tariffs

From lobstermen to manufacturers and contracts that use steel, Maine businesses are feeling the impact of tariffs on U.S. trade.

In response to the Trump Administration's announcement of a 25% tariff on up to $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, China is threatening to impose new duties on a host of imported U.S. products, including lobsters, starting July 6.

It's viewed as a threat to Maine's $500 million lobster industry, which relies heavily on exports to Asia.

"This isn't good news at all," Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, told the Associated Press.

Maine exports of live lobster totaled $325.5 million last year. About 80% of all U.S. lobsters are landed in Maine, according to the Maine Lobstermen's Community Alliance.

Other industries feel impact

The lobster industry isn't the only one affected. For months, the Associated General Contractors of America has warned that construction costs will be affected by volatility in steel prices.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, recently cited an Aroostook County maker of steel countertops that is being affected by higher prices, Maine Public reported.

Hussey Seating Co., a North Berwick manufacturer of stadium seating, issued a statement urging the Trump administration to remove the tariffs imposed June 1 on Canadian steel and aluminum imports.

"We are far from the only manufacturer in New England feeling the pain of the new tariffs imposed," said Gary Merrill, president and CEO of Hussey Seating. "On top of the Canadian steel tariffs, prices for domestically sourced steel (HRPO and galvanized) have increased significantly in anticipation of the implementation of these tariffs. Like many in the construction industry, roughly 50% of our current year's revenues come from projects in our backlog sold at fixed prices. We've already taken a hit in the price increases to date and they continue to negatively impact our ability to reinvest in the business to remain competitive and maintain our current employment levels."

Canada, Mexico and the European Union were exempted from import duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum when the tariffs were first imposed in March, but those exemptions expired June 1.

Merrill said price increases for domestic and Canadian steel will create a competitive advantage for foreign manufacturers, threatening Hussey Seating's longstanding dominance in the North American gym bleacher market.

"We employ 300 people with an annual payroll exceeding $15 million and sales exceeding $100 million, 98% of which are generated outside of Maine and we are a net exporter to Canada," he said. "These are the kinds of jobs this administration has committed to preserving."

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