U.S. nail company gets hammered by Trump’s tariffs

July 2, 2018

President Trump’s tariffs on steel imports coming from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, which took effect on June 1, have caused a southeast Missouri nail manufacturer to lose about 50% of its business in two weeks, as it cedes orders to cheaper foreign manufacturers, MissouriNet reported on June 22. Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff—the only remaining major nail producer in the U.S.A.—has had to take drastic measures to make ends meet and may be out of business by Labor Day, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Geoge Skarich told the news outlet.

Skarich, a Trump voter and supporter, also told The New York Times that the new tariffs on the steel that Mid Continent imports from Mexico to make its nails have forced the company to raise its prices by 20% and to plan major layoffs. Already, 60 of the company’s 500 employees have been let go, and 200 more jobs are anticipated to be gone by the end of July.

He feels that his loyalty to the president has not reaped benefits. “He ran on ‘Make America Great Again,’ and the point was to defend and protect jobs in the United States,” Skarich told the Times, adding, “Now here is an action he decides to take that has the potential to cost 500 U.S. citizens their jobs.”

During a Finance Committee hearing last week on Capitol Hill attended by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, committee member Senator Claire McCaskill, (D-Missouri), sounded the alarm about the company’s possible demise:  “They went from an average of 9,000 tons of nails sold every month to 5,500 [tons] In June. In July, the company will sell fewer than 4,000 tons. The customers can easily source nails manufactured in other countries.”

Some U.S. companies, including Mid Continent Nail Corporation, are seeking tariff exemptions from the federal government if they can’t get the goods they need from a domestic metals supplier

At the hearing, Ross said the Commerce Department is experiencing a huge backlog of exemption requests – leaving many of the companies in a major predicament. Specifically, to date, the department has received more than 20,000 requests for product exemptions. Of those, 98 requests have been processed, 42 exemptions have been approved, and 56 have been denied.

McCaskill railed against the department’s red tape. “In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers on a very technical basis, according to all the reporting we have, without a great deal of training,” McCaskill says. “The regulatory burden is so extreme on small businesses. Many of these companies are filing dozens of waivers based on having to file a different one for every slightly different product. You are requiring that these waivers be filed every year.”

Mid Continent is seeking 24 exemptions, but McCaskill says that it is likely they will not be granted in time to save the business.

Findings of a poll fielded by Quinnipiac University and released on June 8 show that American voters oppose (50%-31%) tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with Republicans the only listed party, gender, education, age, or racial group supporting the measure.

Research contact: timothy.malloy@quinnipiac.edu

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