Steel imports are labor-intensive and thus a critical component of the maritime industry's economic impact on the region. The river's seaport operations directly and indirectly generate 75,000 jobs and annually add $4 billion to the economy, he said.
Officials of other ports offered similar comments. Steel is 37 percent of the Port of New Orleans' business, said Gary LaGrange, president of the port. New Orleans is recovering from the tariffs, he said, "but at this point we're just barely getting our nose above the water."
The sanctions hurt the Port of Houston, by some measures the nation's largest, said Wade Battles, its managing director. Among other things, he said, wages paid related to steel cargo have dropped from $27.5 million to $15 million.
John E. Mallough of Barthco International Inc., a Philadelphia-based logistics company, said steel imports were vital to the economy, locally and nationally.
Tariffs kept the price of domestic steel high, Mallough said, causing U.S. producers of steel barrels and other products to fail, leading to increased imports of products once made in the United States.
Mallough said in an interview that the nation had historically imported 30 percent of the steel it used, and "we need competition from steel imports to keep costs at a reasonable level."
Without that competition, Mallough said, the cost of buildings, roads, and many products made in the United States would rise significantly.
Contact staff writer Henry J. Holcomb at 215-854-2614 or email@example.com.