Trump's Tariffs Cause Issues For American Manufacturers

Damir Mujezinovic

President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum from China are causing concerns for major U.S. manufacturers, Reuters news agency reported today. Worried about tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, executives fear that what is currently considered a row could escalate into an all-out trade war.

Reuters analyzed transcripts of S&P 500 companies conference calls -- conversations between investors and executives, reporting quarterly results. Trump's tariffs are a topic that has arisen on a fifth of analyzed calls. Executives at famous American companies such as Harley-Davidson Inc, Ford Motor Co, and Whirlpool Corp were among those warning investors about the impact so-called Trump Tariffs will have on business.

During a conference call with analysts, Harley-Davidson Chief Financial Officer John Olin warned that Trump's tariffs will, apart from affecting raw material costs, produce various extra costs for the motorcycle maker. "That's going to provide quite a headwind for the company over the next several quarters," he said.

Ford CFO Robert Shanks pointed out how the market had reacted to threats of tariffs. According to Shanks, an increase in commodity costs can already be observed. This increase, he said during a conference call, was "largely metals driven."

As a famous home appliances manufacturer, Whirlpool was expected to benefit from Trump's tariffs, but that does not seem to be the case. Whirlpool's CEO, Marc Bitzer, told analysts that Trump's tariffs have forced the appliance maker to raise its raw material inflation guidance. A raise from about $50 million to as much as $300 million is expected this year.

In January this year, President Trump imposed tariffs on washing machines. The aim of these restrictions was to boost U.S. manufacturing. As The Guardian reported, Trump's plan is to impose a 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million of imported residential washers, and a 50 percent tariff on every machine above that number. These tariffs are meant to decline to 16, and then 40 percent in the third year.

The domino effect of Trump Tariffs has reached Fifth Third Bancorp and Goldman Sachs too; investment banks are concerned about trade tensions and Trump's protectionist tendencies, transcripts show.

According to Reuters, some companies are planning to soften the blow of cost increases for materials by raising prices for their products, or controlling expenses through their supply chains. One such company is PulteGroup Inc, a home-builder. Chief financial officer of the company, Robert O'Shaughnessy, warned about "inflationary pressure on commodities," but also asserted that, so far, the market has allowed his company the price to cover these expenses.

China has responded to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. The country has imposed levies on American aluminium, as well as agricultural products. Both sides are threatening more tariffs. China is looking to impose tariffs on American cars, aircraft, and soybeans, and the U.S. is eyeing Chinese machinery components and televisions.