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Stymied By Tariffs, Some New England Businesses Struggle To Stay Afloat

The lobster industry in New England has been impacted by Trump's trade policies. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The lobster industry in New England has been impacted by Trump's trade policies. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Two New England businesses that have been impacted by President Trump’s tariffs have very different opinions on trade policy.

Alliant Metals in Hampstead, New Hampshire, relies on imported stainless steel. The company cuts it on the factory floor with water jets and band saws, President Chris Buchanan says.

Buchanan’s wife, Raelene Riley, handles marketing and communications at Alliant. The couple supports the president and his trade policies — even though they say Trump’s 2018 tariffs on imported steel have hurt them.

“Material went up 25% immediately, and it was a little tough at first, a lot of customers did not want to hear it,” Buchanan says, “but we had to pass it on because we couldn’t afford to absorb a 25% increase.”

Buchanan and Riley are hopeful that the tariffs will help their industry in the long run — even if they make business tough right now.

“I don’t think the ship has turned around yet, by any means. And we are being affected by this, and sales are still sporadic,” Riley says “There are pockets of hope, it’s not across the board.”

The company saw a hopeful sign a few weeks ago when a couple of clients increased their quantities, Riley says.

Up in Arundel, Maine, Stephanie Nadeau and Mike Marceau of The Lobster Company have a very different view on the tariffs. They’re part of a New England lobster export industry.

Their business has been hit by the retaliatory tariffs that China placed on U.S. lobsters, imposed to punish the U.S.

Nadeau says immediately after China imposed the 35% tariff on U.S. lobsters, the country stopped buying from her and switched to purchasing lobsters from Canada. “100% to a halt,” she says.

“We normally shipped 300 [boxes of lobster] day,” Marceau says. “Today, we shipped none.”

Their business specialized in Asian exports, Nadeau says. When the Chinese started purchasing lobsters from the U.S., The Lobster Company was on the “front line” of opening up the market, she says.

Now, Nadeau opposes the tariffs.

“We haven’t evened the playing field with China by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “There’s no diplomacy coming out of the Trump administration as far as trade deals. It’s broken now, who’s gonna put the pieces back together?”

Karyn Miller-Medzon and Jill Ryan produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O’Dowd.  Ryan also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.