Tariffs lift hopes for jobs

In the heart of America’s diminished steel country, support for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imports is broad and bipartisan. It is tempered, though, by a strong streak of realism.

Trump’s tariffs are expected to raise U.S. prices for steel and aluminum. That would help domestic producers and create several hundred new steelworker jobs.

But the tariffs aren’t going to return American steel anywhere close to its peak output in the 1970s. Even some steelworkers feel it in places like Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

People in Canonsburg are proud of their past. A statue of singer and native son Perry Como adorns downtown. The borough claims to have the second-largest July Fourth celebration in the state, behind only Philadelphia. Coal and steel once dominated the landscape, but many of the mills have closed in recent decades.

“Our union has asked for tariffs for years, but I have a feeling myself that it’s too late,” said Denny Cregut, a steelworker in Canonsburg. “I wish to God this thing would work and steel mills would come back and coal mines would come back and jobs would come back, but unfortunately I don’t believe it.”

The details of the Trump administration’s tariffs — 25 percent on foreign steel, 10 percent on aluminum — are still unclear, and that helps explain why they are likely to have limited effect.

The president exempted Canada and Mexico temporarily while they renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. Other countries also want to be excused. European nations are threatening to retaliate with tariffs against some American products.