Commerce Secretary Concerned

No impact yet

March 13, 2018 - 12:55 pm

MARCH 13, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

The Secretary of the South Carolina Department of Commerce says there is some concern in his department about tariffs on imported steel proposed by President Trump.

Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt was asked by senators at the Senate Oversight Committee meeting Tuesday morning what impacts the department anticipated regarding the controversial proposal.

“There is concern,” Hitt told senators. “No one’s hair’s on fire yet, to be quite blunt. These are all fairly sophisticated companies. They’ve sort of been here before.”

Hitt explained when he was working for BMW, the Bush administration imposed steel tariffs in 2002 that lasted about 18 months. The steel BMW required for its vehicles was not available by U.S. producers, so the company requested a waiver.

“All these things don’t translate quite as easily as everyone thinks,” he explained. “And crashworthiness of a car is based on the strength of the metal. It can get very technical very fast. And so you get into these conversations to try to protect your product, remember, you have a product liability as well when you put a product on the road. It gets fairly complicated.”

Hitt told the committee about 400 businesses are operating in South Carolina related to the automotive industry.

“We are a free market state so anything that limits free market could have some impact on us,” he said. “But so far it seems to be — there’s an engagement of discussion going rather than an imposition that has had a direct effect yet.”

“Yes, there’s concerns. In fact, it was discussed in my office yesterday by two different people — representatives of international companies — about their concern. I can tell you there’s been traffic in the Governor’s office from our companies asking — seeking his support,” he said.

Hitt said his research predicts South Carolina will be one of the states most affected by a tariff on imported steel.

“Every national article that I’ve read that talked about which would be the states that would have impact if these tariffs were put in at the full rate that were being suggested initially, South Carolina was in that list,” he said. “So yes, there’s concern. There’s uncertainty. But as yet, no impact.”

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