Alexander in Robertson County: Aluminum and Steel Tariffs Likely to Hurt Tennessee More Than Any Other State

Posted on June 15, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn., June 15, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said he agrees with President Trump on taxes, judges and regulations and is proud of the many Republican accomplishments in the past 18 months, but he is hoping to persuade the president to change his mind on aluminum and steel tariffs because Tennessee is “likely to be hurt more than any other state.” The senator cited numerous examples of Tennessee companies that are already being hurt by the tariffs.

“I saw [President Trump] in Nashville a few weeks ago, and I said, ‘Mr. President, as you know, I agree with you and am proud we have the best economy in the last 18 years, lower taxes and fewer regulations. These are the most significant accomplishments in at least 30 years by a conservative government. I would like to persuade you to change your mind on tariffs because Tennessee is likely to be hurt more than any other state because in many ways we're the number one auto state.’ So far I’ve been unsuccessful in convincing him, but I’m going to keep trying.”

Alexander continued, “I helped recruit the Nissan plan to Tennessee in 1980 as governor, at a time when we had literally no auto jobs. Today, one-third of our manufacturing jobs are auto jobs, and these jobs are not only in three big auto plants like Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen, they’re in over 900 different auto suppliers in 88 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. A 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum threatens our success because almost every one of those over 900 auto parts suppliers use aluminum and steel in making their parts for cars and trucks that will be sold in the United States and exported around the world. If your price goes up, what usually happens is your profits go down, your sales go down, and your wages don't go up as fast or jobs might disappear. Think about the impact of about a 25 percent increase on the materials used to make parts in the companies that employ 135,000 Tennesseans.”

Today, Alexander spoke at the Robertson County Chamber about how tariffs are a big mistake for Tennessee and have already had a negative impact on Tennessee companies, including one in Springfield. Earlier this year, Electrolux, a big home appliance manufacturer which had announced a $250 million expansion of their Springfield plant put the expansion on hold as soon as the steel tariffs were announced. The senator today said, “Electrolux has made multiple investments in Tennessee with plants in Memphis and in Springfield, and it employs more than two thousand Tennesseans. Electrolux buys almost all of its steel produced in the United States, and the problem is that when the price of imported steel goes up, the price of domestic, U.S. imported steel goes up too. Putting their investment on hold means fewer jobs for Tennesseans, so you can see why it’s so important I change the president’s mind on these tariffs.”

Alexander also mentioned a few other Tennessee companies that have said they could negatively be affected by steel and aluminum tariffs: Bush Brothers has said steel and aluminum tariffs would lower their revenues by 8.5% because they use tin-plated steel and half of it is imported because there isn’t enough in the United States; JTEKT buys a specialty steel from Japan that is not produced in the United States, and the tariffs would increase its cost of production by up to $18 million; Bridgestone and Hankook use steel wire, not produced in the United States, on all of its tires, and the tariffs will put a tax on these tires that will make them more expensive to buy, which means fewer opportunities for increased wages and jobs.

“What I would suggest, respectfully, to the president is to shift focus from tariffs to reciprocity,” Alexander concluded. “In other words, say to every country, ‘Do for our country what our country does for you.’ That would be consistent with all the other accomplishments that have happened in the last 18 months. That would be consistent with the lower taxes and the fewer regulations and the other actions that have created the best economy in the last 18 years.”

Last week, Alexander cosponsored a bill to restore congressional approval of tariffs proposed by the president under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress authority to regulate trade with foreign nations and to impose tariffs. In 1962, Congress delegated some of this authority to the Executive Branch. The legislation restores Congress’s ability to approve certain tariffs if the president believes they are necessary to address threats to national security.

The senator also spoke last week on the Senate floor about tariffs.