President Trump’s vow to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum next week brought praise from the Iron Range and its mining companies Thursday. The long-awaited decision by the president comes after months of review by the U.S. Commerce Department, acting on a campaign promise made by Trump that helped deliver him Rust Belt regions like the Range.
The extent of the tariffs, which could fall into place in a few weeks, remains unknown. Trump is considering a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and 25 percent on steel following the Commerce Department report, which said steel imports presented a national security risk.
“Artificially cheap steel boosted by subsidies, dumping and circumvention are not signs of competitiveness; these are just signs of blatant disregard to real free trade and to our trade laws,” said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of Cleveland Cliffs, which has ownership in United Taconite, Hibbing Taconite and Northshore. “Once free from these unfair practices, we will finally have a level playing field for steel in the United States. Going forward, we expect that the Administration will fully enforce the announced actions, making sure that the offenders, particularly the enablers within our borders, will be treated as seriously as they deserve.”
Range stakeholders say tariffs will help curb steel dumping that sent the industry into a deep downturn in 2015. More than half of Iron Range mines were idled as a result, putting thousands of out of work.
House 6B State Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, who is also running for Congress in the 8th District, was among those — including Goncalves — who pushed for the narrow 2016 tariffs that brought production levels back to normal and reopened many Range mines.
“This is welcome news for our dedicated union steelworkers in the region,” he said in Facebook post Thursday.
Iron mining is a $3 billion industry in Minnesota that employs thousands on the Iron Range. According to the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, about 85 percent of the iron produced in America comes from Minnesota.
United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, who along with steel executives was present when Trump ordered an investigation into steel imports, also praised the tariffs for returning a market-based economic model.
“The objective should also be to reduce the negative impact of steel and aluminum imports that have decimated production in the United States,” he said in a statement. “The tariff levels the President announced will help to achieve that objective.”