The Trump administration’s recent focus on tariffs on steel and aluminum has largely been in the context of potential trade wars, discordant views regarding globalism, renegotiating NAFTA, and exemptions for key allies and trading partners such as Canada and Mexico. But there is a broader context that implicates not only the construction industry and materials prices, but also the future trajectory of the U.S. economy.
The tariffs come during the ninth year of U.S. economic expansion. The economy gained momentum for much of 2017 and enters 2018 with considerable strength. The broadening of the U.S. economic expansion from merely being consumer led to also being associated with surging manufacturing output, construction activity, rising exports and business investment is attributable to many factors, including elevated business confidence and recently enacted tax reform.