By U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
When it comes to trade in the global marketplace, there will always be winners and losers. And when Missouri businesses have a fair shot, they win.
But with the threat of a recklessly escalating trade war posed by steel and aluminum tariffs, Missouri’s small businesses, manufacturers, and agriculture producers stand to lose, and lose big.
Take Mid Continent Nail Corporation, a Poplar Bluff manufacturer I recently visited, and talked about during a Senate hearing with the Secretary of Commerce. In response to a 25 percent tariff on the wire they use to make nails, which forced the company to raise prices, they’ve lost almost half of their business in one month, laying off 60 of their 500 employees, with projections to lay off 200 more by the end of July. Reckless steel and aluminum tariffs made Mid-Continent’s nails too expensive, driving the businesses that purchased from them to buy cheap Chinese imports instead.
CNC Machine Products in Joplin has been hit hard by these tariffs too, having to pay tens of thousands of dollars more on orders of specialized steel they placed months before tariffs were announced. For them, it’s not about the price, they simply cannot get the specialized steel products they need here—they have no other option but to import.
And I’ve heard from soybean farmers across the state—where one in three rows of our beans are sold to China—that retaliatory tariffs that close the door to those critical markets would have disastrous consequences for them.
Small businesses and farmers across Missouri are feeling the stress and anxiety from uncertainty in the marketplace. Hundreds of thousands of Missourians depend on the ability to sell their harvest, livestock, and goods in the global market to make a living—and one thing they need more than anything else is certainty. And they’re not getting it.
The top three destinations for Missouri’s exports are Canada, Mexico, and China. And what we’ve already seen is all of these countries, and even the European Union, will not be shy in retaliating against any tariffs we put on their goods. Missouri’s producers are already in their crosshairs.
We’ve got to be vigilant against dumping and unfair trade practices that hurt our steel and aluminum manufacturers and producers, but starting a trade war will only hurt the folks we’re trying to protect. The President’s tariffs, and retaliatory tariffs from our allies and other nations around the world, are making it harder for our companies to succeed and putting Missourians’ jobs at risk.
When I’ve seen the challenges Missouri’s manufacturers and agriculture workers face, I’ve never been shy about standing up for them.
When Missouri’s soybean and biodiesel industry was being harmed by unfair trade practices last year, and over 17,000 jobs were at stake, I went to work. I testified on their behalf to the government agency that decides whether American companies have been harmed—and after my testimony, the agency’s commissioners unanimously voted to level the playing field for the soybean industry.
Speaking with the workers at Mid Continent Nails in Poplar Bluff, I heard their concerns firsthand—concerns that these tariffs could put them out of a job and put their families at risk. I told them I’ll be fighting for them in Washington until our government’s policies protect the Missourians who’ve always worked hard and played by the rules.
Missourians sent me to the Senate to fight for them—that’s what I’ve done, and that’s what I’ll keep doing—to ensure our manufacturers and producers are given the fair shot the deserve.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is the senior senator from Missouri.