Trump steel tariffs exact toll on North Carolina buyer

Howard Steel owner James Howard told FOX Business on Thursday that tit-for-tat retaliatory announcements of tariffs between U.S. trading partners aren’t leveling the playing field.

“It kind of loses its purpose if everybody is going to have retaliation on their minds and the consumer or the end user gets lost in a battle that makes no sense,” Howard said during an interview on the “Countdown to the Closing Bell” program on Thursday.

President Donald Trump announced that he would end the two-month exemption for the European Union, Canada and Mexico from the 25% steel and 10% aluminum import tariffs starting at midnight Thursday. The three responded by announcing plans to retaliate.

U.S. steel prices have climbed sharply since the Trump administration’s announcement in March that it was imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from China.

“I’m stuck,” Howard said. “I have no choice. I have to buy the steel. You can’t sell from an empty wagon.”

Howard Steel, a Charlotte, North Carolina, company, manufactures gas lines, structural steel and equipment for job sites such as the 2012 restoration of the Statue of Liberty. It used to pay about 38 cents for a pound of raw material from domestic steel producers.

“I’m just sitting here trying to keep up with what do I need to stock,” Howard told FOX Business' Liz Claman.

Howard Steel buys its steel from domestic steelmakers and does not import from China. Howard said he hasn’t laid off any employees yet, but he has recently seen a decrease in business.

“You create this anxiety through the market, and it has a way of grabbing roots,” he said. “It goes everywhere.”