May 21, 2019
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Maine companies ask for exemptions from Trump’s steel tariffs

Matt Rourke | AP
Matt Rourke | AP
Jose Hernandez operates a turret press at the Howard McCray's commercial refrigeration manufacturing facility in Philadelphia, Oct. 18, 2018.

Two Maine companies have filed a total of 11 exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed last year by President Donald Trump so they can affordably acquire the materials they need for their businesses.

The two companies, Soleras Advanced Coatings of Biddeford and Eldur Corp. of Bangor, have joined companies across the nation that have filed nearly 50,000 applications for exemptions from the tariffs.

Of that total, more than 14,000 exemptions have been granted to at least 370 companies, with 27,000 applications still pending, according to an Associated Press analysis of exemption requests filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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The tariffs place a 25 percent fee on imported steel and 10 percent surcharge on imported aluminum from most key U.S. trading partners, including Canada, the European Union and China.

“We filed for the exemptions because of the increase in steel costs from the tariffs,” said Dawn Tremblay, the plant manager at Eldur. “Any cost like that is out of pocket.”

Eldur, which employs 20 people and makes parts for light bulbs, applied for 10 exemptions. So far, one has been approved for a specific kind of nickel-plated steel. The company imports that from China, because there are no sources in the United States, according to Associated Press data.

The other nine exemption requests are pending on materials not available in the United States and that the company imports from China, Taiwan and Germany.

Soleras Advanced Coatings applied for and was granted an exemption on tubes from China that are not readily available in the United States in the size that it needs.

The company uses a high-tech, high-speed process to make coatings for cutting-edge products like architectural glass and large-screen displays for televisions and computers.

The Associated Press found that most companies requesting an exemption, or some 75 percent, get one, including those that want to import from China or are themselves subsidiaries of Chinese firms. Reasons for rejected requests include incomplete applications that can be refiled.

[Maine companies are feeling the consequences of Trump’s steel tariffs]

Despite the trade war, more than 661 million pounds of steel imports from China have been waived from tariffs so far.

Politics doesn’t seem to figure into the approvals. Companies in Democratic districts were approved at similar rates to those in Republican districts, the Associated Press found.

Steel and aluminum are used heavily in U.S. manufacturing, and the tariffs are hitting a broad range of products.

That includes stadium seating from Hussey Seating of North Berwick and the aluminum cans used by the craft brewing industry, which contributes $260 million to the Maine economy.


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