The decision to tax steel and aluminum imports was a political move that should, in theory, play well in races such as Pennsylvania’s district 18 special elections. The larger question, however, is whether the US wants to compete in the industrial commodities businesses that had peaked decades ago. Boosting these industries will be at the expense of value-added manufacturing, which has rebounded in recent years. Even China is now shifting out of these “old economy” sectors (#2 here). Ironically, higher import prices for industrial materials may encourage some firms to move more production outside of the US.
From the consumer’s perspective, these tariffs mean higher prices on thousands of products – from US-made cars to beer cans.