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Shifting Trump tariffs on aluminum disruptive to CNY businesses

Port of Oswego
The Port of Oswego is the second-largest importer of aluminum in the Great Lakes.

U.S. businesses that deal in aluminum, including some here in central New York, are praising the Trump administration's recent decision to not impose tariffs on Canadian aluminum, however, they argue that the president's policies have been disruptive.

Since Trump took office, his administration has gone back and forth with tariffs on aluminum coming across the Canadian border out of a concern for national security and in support of domestic aluminum producers. Bill Scriber, director of the Port of Oswego, which is the second largest importer of this metal in the Great Lakes, said it's been a frustrating process.

"Having this up and down constant flux on imports and tariffs, it's almost impossible for us to have a realistic budget," Scriber said.

The implementation, then removal, and the latest threat of new tariffs has cost the port money. Some Canadian companies have switched to sending aluminum into the United States by truck in smaller shipments to avoid paying a hefty tariff all at once on a ship.

"We typically would have received 2-3 ships, sometimes 4 ships, per month and now we are down to 1.5 ships per month," Scriber said. "They took one full ship out of the loop, decreasing at least with that ship 50 percent of the imported aluminum to [the Port of] Toledo and Oswego."

One of the reasons the Port of Oswego deals in so much aluminum is Novelis, a plant in Oswego County that prepares the metal for use in cars, cans, and other products. A spokesperson for the company said it stands with the U.S. Aluminum Association in calling for free and fair trade with Canada. Tariffs increase the cost of the end-product, adding hardship in an already weakened economy.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration helped pass the USMCA trade deal with Canada and Mexico permitting aluminum to come in duty-free. But the deal also permits the U.S. to reimpose the tariffs and federal officials say they will do so again if the amount of aluminum coming into the country exceeds current expectations for the rest of the year.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.