By Jamel C. Holley
The federal government levied taxes on aluminum imports in 2018 to protect domestic manufacturers under the guise of national security. However, these “protections” have inhibited trade and raised the price of raw goods, damaging the very economy that the policy intended to help.
Aluminum prices have spiked from $1,600 (pre-tariff rate) to $2,800 per ton, hurting all stakeholders, from manufacturers to consumers. Additionally, recent supply chain shortages constrain everyday market transactions as inflation continues to climb, further imperiling the country. These harmful tariffs have made a bad situation worse.
While President Biden was working to resolve this issue at the recent U.S.–E.U. conference, large quantities of aluminum still faced harmful levies. Eliminating these Section 232 tariffs, as U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have proposed in their bipartisan legislation, would help ensure our national security interests and strengthen our economy.
No doubt, America’s security is built by aluminum, a crucial raw material for military manufacturing and infrastructure. Yet these Section 232 tariffs have increased the price of aluminum and threatened our safety. Such tariffs restrict our defense capacity and hurt our economy.
Many are unaware that aluminum is a crucial metal for military-grade armor plating, a strong metal that can be shaped while maintaining structural integrity. Troop transports, aircraft components and small arms are built with aluminum. Section 232 has made arming and protecting our military more difficult. With a sparser and more expensive supply of this common metal, weapons and armor are more difficult to develop and deploy.
Section 232 also harms our homeland security by complicating our infrastructure improvements. Our national security depends upon strong infrastructure; Section 232 threatens to undermine improvement efforts by spiking the price of aluminum. Its lightweight strength under tension makes it an ideal option for modern buildings. Of all aluminum produced worldwide, 25% is used in construction. Affordable aluminum is all the more important in light of Congress’ approved infrastructure package and would ensure that our nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels and waterways can meet modern demands.
Repealing Section 232 will also boost our economy and expedite our recovery. In New Jersey, the aluminum industry contributed $2.59 billion to the state and generated $136.9 million in state and local revenue. A weak economy compromises our national security. Expanding such a critical sector could spur general growth across the market, helping to counter the fiscal stagnation we have endured the past few years.
Free trade is not just good business, but also an important means to protect this state and country.
Senators Toomey and Warner are actively pushing for a bipartisan solution to our trade problems. Their bill, the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, would reign in executive authority in passing tariffs. Congress would be able to review all presidentially proposed national security tariffs. This bill would ensure that the Senate and House could protect our national economy, expand our international trade relations and strengthen homeland security.
While these tariffs were intended to protect American interests, there’s no doubt that Section 232 has instead hurt domestic manufacturers and workers. Greater access to affordable aluminum supports defense manufacturing, infrastructure improvements and drives our fiscal recovery. Supporting free trade will help secure America as we move forward.