President Trump’s controversial imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which critics warn could trigger an international trade war, has found a new vocal supporter: labor union leader James Hoffa.
Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), promised that Trump’s tariffs will not only bring jobs back to the U.S., but will protect the country’s national security interests. The IBT represents more than 1.3 million members in both blue-collar and professional workers in the private and public sectors.
“There’s a national emergency right now to protect American jobs,” Hoffa told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo during an interview on Wednesday. “We need steel for national security, we need aluminum. We need to have strong, strong companies here. This is the beginning of something that will save American jobs and protect American security.”
Trump announced the tariffs – 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum – two weeks ago, arguing they would protect U.S. companies and allow for the creation of new manufacturing plants, one of his main promises during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Within days, the leader of the European Union threatened to slap import duties on major U.S. products, including Harley-Davidson, bourbon and Levi’s Jeans, a direct retaliation to Trump’s plan to place steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Already, Electrolux, a Swedish appliance company, announced plans to delay the $250 million expansion of its plant in Springfield, Tennessee, citing Trump’s tariffs and the potential increase of steel in the U.S. market, as first reported by Reuters.
But Hoffa dismissed concerns of a trade war, citing unfair trade practices between the U.S. and its allies. For instance, the EU imposes a 10% tax on American cars, while the U.S. levy on European cars is only 2.5%.
“We’ve had tremendous dumping here,” Hoffa said. “We’ve had steel companies go out of business. We need steel, we need aluminum, for national security. This is deliberate dumping by China, Vietnam, whoever can do it, and they keep sending it here. They need to stop, and this is basically a way to level the playing field.”
Since Trump announced the tariffs, U.S. Steel Corp. said it would restart one of two blast furnaces at a dormant steel-making facility in Illinois, a move that could employ more than 500 people.
“These are things to have to be done, that nobody had the guts to do,” he said.