Elgin firms seek Durbin trade aid

Trump tweets new threats of additional tariffs on China

 Sen. Dick Durbin heard complaints from manufacturers on tariffs in a roundtable discussion in Elgin last week. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Sen. Dick Durbin heard complaints from manufacturers on tariffs in a roundtable discussion in Elgin last week. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin got an earful on the impact of tariffs from Elgin manufacturers last week, even as President Trump threatened Monday to double down on his trade war with China.

The Daily Herald reported that local factory owners told Durbin they’re feeling the pinch of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Elgin Development Group.

“We started paying the tariff in March,” said Mike Bilyk, president and CEO of American NTN Bearing. “It's costing us a great deal of money.”

Trump has touted the benefits of his trade war, most prominently in Illinois with a visit to the U.S. Steel Granite City Works, where his tariffs led to the immediate rehiring of steelworkers earlier this year.

Durbin applauded that, saying, “I’m glad they got their jobs back,” but emphasized it was only part of a large, complex story in which Illinois farmers and manufacturers are paying the price.

“Those steel workers are very visible walking through their gates,” he said. “The impact we're talking about is not visible.”

Factories like American NTN Bearing and Motorola Solutions are paying higher costs for materials thanks to the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.

“We're trying to mitigate that cost to the best of our ability,” said Motorola’s Jim Companik.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said he was concerned about losing jobs in factory relocations and other impacts of higher prices being passed along to consumers.

U.S. Steel has boasted that it can create materials for any purpose, but Bilyk said those upgrades and the verification process would take years.

Trump is considering another round of 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods. He touted the revival of the steel industry under his protectionist tariffs in tweets early Monday morning and insisted “cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable.”

Manufacturers, however, told Durbin their complaints were not being heard, and Illinois farmers have likewise felt the impact of retaliatory tariffs. Soybean farmers and pork producers have both seen prices drop dramatically with the decline in demand from China resulting from its tariffs.

The Illinois Soybean Producers Association has issued a statement saying: “Producers need trade, not aid.”

Durbin echoed that in his roundtable discussion with Elgin manufacturers, saying, “My personal feeling is that trade is important and that we need to have it as part of our national economy.”

Zachary Sigelko has also done a short One Illinois explainer video on Trump’s trade war.