Local business anxious about proposed metal tariff

Critics say the tax will mean higher prices on everything from electronics, to boats, cars, even cans.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- President Trump's plan to put tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum is causing concern locally and nationwide.

A lot of businesses are just watching and waiting to see what happens.

“I wake up thinking about it. I got to bed thinking about it,” said Thad Fisco. He owns Portland Kettle Works, a company that manufactures beer brewing equipment which is made almost entirely of stainless steel.

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That's why he's paying close attention to the president’s proposal to tax foreign steel 25 percent and aluminum 10 percent.

“Our primary competitor in the business is Chinese equipment,” said Fisco.

He said Chinese steel has, for too long, made it too tough for U.S. manufacturers to compete.

“The cost of our raw materials are, in some cases, the cost of some finished products imported from China, which honestly isn't the way it should be,” Fisco said.

That's why he said the proposed tariff would at least be addressing a longstanding issue with China's cheaper steel saturating the market.

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Critics say the tax will mean higher prices on everything from electronics, to boats, cars, even cans.

“The cost of the steel is going to be passed on to our end users, which are our brewers,” Fisco said.

In his case, his clients are brewers. But the cost could be passed on to whoever else uses steel or aluminum to make their products.

At this point it looks like one winner could be U.S. steel manufacturers. The United States Steel Corporation wrote in a press release, "The president's strong leadership is needed to begin to level the playing field so companies like ours can compete,” it said among other things.

It's the U.S. steel manufacturers Fisco is concerned about.

“Suddenly U.S. steel prices go up because there's more headroom for them to raise their price,” he said.

If that happens, it could mean the added cost could gets passed on to us as consumers.

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For some perspective, a Trump administration official said a 10 percent tax on aluminum would only mean a cent-and-a-half increase on a six-pack of beer.

Still, there are lots of people are worried about their bottom line.

The president is expected to sign off on the plan sometime soon, possibly this week.

KGW reached out to Vigor as well. It’s a Portland company that specializes in shipbuilding and industrial fabrication. A company spokesperson said at this time they have no comment and that there are a couple major trade groups looking into what the tariff would mean for Vigor and other similar companies.

Phone calls from KGW to other metal fabrication companies as well as construction companies went unanswered.