Columbus may find itself in the crosshairs of an international trade war after the Trump Administration said Thursday it would impose steep tariffs on metals imported from its North America trade partners, and Mexico retaliated with its own tariffs.
The implications of the potential trade war could be serious for Steel Dynamic’s flat roll steel plant in Columbus.
In March, Trump announced plans to impose 25-percent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, but exempted the European Union, Canada and Mexico from those tariffs. On Thursday, the Trump Administration removed those exemptions.
Later Thursday, Mexico announced it would impose an equivalent tariff on certain U.S. products, including rolled steel.
That could be bad news for SDI’s Columbus plant where much of its steel is exported to Mexico for use in the country’s automobile industry.
Company officials in Columbus and at its corporate headquarters in Indiana did not respond to requests for comments on how the dispute might impact production in Columbus.
However, during the company’s fourth quarter and year-end conference call on January 29, SDI President and CEO Mark Millett singled out the role of the Columbus facility in the company’s record net income in 2017, mentioning Columbus’ exports to Mexico as a key factor.
“We, I think, shipped about 220,000 tons of automotive (steel) from Columbus just last year, which is a massive increase,” Millett told investors. “And we’re on platforms to increase that to about 400,000 tons over the next 18 months …We continue to gain market share, especially at the Columbus flat roll division with our focus on automotive direct sales. We also benefit there from a cost effective access into Mexico.”
Flat roll steel accounts for two thirds of Mexico’s total steel imports — 3.7 metric tons in 2017, according to the International Trade Administration.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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