What aluminum and steel tariffs will mean to you

Trump hits Canada, Mexico, EU with steep tariffs
Trump hits Canada, Mexico, EU with steep tariffs

The tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed on imports from Canada, Mexico and Europe — and the promised retaliation from these key US trading partners — will ripple across the American economy.

You could be affected even if your business has nothing to do with rolls of aluminum or slabs of steel.

First, the price of some products that everyone buys will probably go up.

Both metals are crucial raw material for autos, airplanes and appliances made in the United States. The construction, oil and utility industries use them for beams, pipelines and wires, as well as cans for food and drinks.

Related: Trump hits Canada, Mexico, EU with steel and aluminum tariffs

It's not clear how much imports will fall if Trump follows through with the tariffs. Experts say it's not clear that the existing American industry can supply all the steel and aluminum now imported from abroad, since restarting closed factories will be difficult, expensive and could take years in some cases.

That means that manufacturers might have to keep importing these materials and pay the tariffs. That will raise their costs, making their products less profitable, or if they raise their prices, less competitive.

Even if an American manufacturer buys from domestic steel mills or aluminum smelters, those companies could hike their prices since they won't have to worry about as much competition from low-priced imports.

Related: Trump is starting a global trade war

Beyond that, the trade dispute with these major partners isn't likely to stop with these products.

Mexico and the EU have already pledged to retaliate against American products with their own tariffs.

For example when the steel and aluminum tariffs were first announced in March, Europe signaled it was prepared to take action aimed at Harley-Davidson (HOG) motorbikes, bourbon whiskey and Levi's jeans in retaliation. Farmers could also be hit by tariffs imposed on food exports.

Tariffs will probably also hurt the value of your 401(k), since a trade war is typically bad news for American stocks. The Dow was down more than 200 points midday Thursday.

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