Monday , September 23 2019

Trump tariffs: Firms dangle cash prizes in lobbying push


Some US companies anxious for exclusions from Donald Trump’s tariffs are turning to creative ways to get the president’s attention.
One Texas steel pipe maker is promising that it will invest millions and hire new workers in return for a temporary break on tariffs. It’s also offering its employees cash prizes for writing the best postcards to Trump advocating for their case.
Other companies are encouraging workers and customers to join letter-writing campaigns and are teaming up with lawmakers to lobby on their behalf.
“I didn’t know that this would do anything, and I still don’t know, but I’ve got a good feeling about it,” said Joel Johnson, chief executive officer of Borusan Mannesmann Pipe US Inc., which is pitching the investment deal to Trump for its pipe mill and finishing facilities in Baytown, Texas. “I can’t stand by and just not do anything.”‘
The Commerce Department has been flooded with almost 19,000 requests so far to have products excluded from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. Borusan Mannesmann and other companies are resorting to unconventional means to persuade the administration that the duties, which are intended to help manufacturing, will actually hurt US production and jobs.
“It’s already pretty painful to begin with, and if we don’t get the exclusion, it’s going to be worse for us,” said Ty Taylor, president of South Carolina-based Greenfield Industries Inc., who said that the tariffs are cutting into the company’s profits. Greenfield has asked employees and sales people to write letters seeking support for more than 1,100 exclusion requests.
“We almost feel like the government’s telling us we need to stop manufacturing here and move our manufacturing offshore,” Taylor said.
Companies are asking for exclusions from the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum that Trump imposed in March and expanded on June 1 by removing temporary country exemptions for the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
Requests can be approved
if the needed raw material isn’t produced in the US in
a sufficient amount or quality, or for a specific national
security reason.
Borusan Mannesmann, which wants exclusions for the pipe it imports from its parent company, is facing added annual costs of $25 million to $35 million from the tariffs, Johnson said. The company has pledged to spend $75 million on a new mill and finishing facility and hire as many as 170 workers
if it gets the exclusions, including a previously planned $25 million investment.

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