Experts say new steel tariff not likely to impact NYC construction

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The New York City (NYC) construction industry is likely to see no worst effects of President Donald Trump’s proposed tariff on foreign steel, according to experts who talked to Crain’s.

Trump proposed slapping a 25 percent tax on steel and 10 percent on aluminum produced abroad. The move would shield domestic producers against competition from abroad but also raise prices for other sectors of the U.S. economy that rely on the metals.

In the five boroughs, however, commercial office developers using structural steel for the skeletons of their towers would likely not see a significant change.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) says the tariffs will have a big effect on construction projects and jobs nationwide.  See separate story.

“In the New York market, almost all steel comes from the U.S.,” said Brian Raff, director of government relations for the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), a structural steel trade group that believes Trump’s proposed tariff doesn’t go far enough in curbing imports.

General contractors and developers could still feel some effects, however, because sapping foreign competition would give domestic producers more leeway to set prices.

“Will this allow domestic steel mills to raise prices a little bit? Probably,” said Paul Brancato, general manager of Ideal Steel in the Bronx. “But I don’t think this is going to be a great boon to the industry where we’ll see steel mill after steel mill opening.”

New York City is already home to the priciest construction in the world, and the cost of steel alone rose about 5 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to a report from Turner & Townsend.

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