Charlotte craft breweries worry about President Trump's tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that North American neighbors Canada and Mexico will get no relief from his new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports unless a "new and fair" free trade agreement is signed.

The Trump administration says the tariffs are necessary to preserve the American industries - and that doing so is a national security imperative. But Trump's latest tweets suggest he's also using the upcoming tariffs as leverage in ongoing talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. The latest round of a nearly year-long renegotiation effort is concluding this week in Mexico City.

"Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted. "Also, Canada must treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive. Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying."

The tariffs will be made official in the next two weeks, White House officials said Monday, as the administration defended the protectionist decision from critics in Washington and overseas.

Trump's pronouncement last week that he would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets and rankled allies.

In Charlotte, craft beer breweries worry about what tariffs would do to their bottom line. Birdsong Brewery in NoDa is one of them. It's a small business with 32 employees and not much room to absorb increases in the cost of steel and aluminum.

"Any price increase could hit us disproportionately," said Chris Goulet with Birdsong.

Goulet said the company spent $160,000 on aluminum last year. A ten percent increase is $16,000 and that doesn't include what they spend on steel.

"Ten percent isn't peanuts," said Goulet. "When we buy kegs, we usually buy a couple hundred at a time, so if you're talking about 25 percent added cost. That's going to be bad."

NoDa Brewing Company said it is also worried.

"We expect that will rise by at least a cent per can. That will increase our annual cost by approximately $22,000," said owner Todd Ford in an email.

The higher costs could ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

"Craft beer is already priced higher than domestics, so sometimes price is a consideration when you're looking to hang out with friends," said resident Daniel Sutton.

The tariffs could also impact North Carolina's billions of dollars in exports that include chemicals and agricultural products. Experts are concerned U.S. tariffs on foreign goods could lead to retaliatory tariffs from China, Europe, and Canada.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report