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Hassan touts anti-tariff legislation

By Kathy Cleveland - Staff Writer | Feb 5, 2019

Telegraph photos by KATHY CLEVELAND U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., with Hitchiner Manufacturing Vice President Timothy Sullivan and Vice President John Morison IV, during a tour of the company Monday morning.

MILFORD – President Donald Trump endeavors to revive industry in Rust Belt communities from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee with his tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on foreign aluminum.

However, both Republican and Democratic U.S. senators, including Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., are expressing concerns about how the tariffs are impacting businesses that transform raw steel and aluminum into finished products. One such firm is Milford-based Hitchiner Manufacturing, which Hassan visited Monday morning.

“I am very concerned about the impact that the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have had on Granite State businesses – like Hitchiner Manufacturing – who have been unfairly caught in the middle of a reckless trade war,” Hassan said.

Hitchiner is one of New Hampshire’s largest private employers, manufacturing investment casting for a wide variety of products, including jet engines, and employing about 700 people in the Milford plant. Company executives shared concerns with Hassan before escorting her on a factory tour.

Hassan sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction regarding matters relating to taxation and revenues, trade agreements and tariffs.

Hitchiner Vice President John Morison IV told Hassan the tariffs have not affected their production costs because they produce their own steel. However, the tariffs did add $300,000 to the cost of the company’s new 85,000-square-foot addition, originally estimated at a cost of $50 million. The bigger concern, he said, is the tariffs could make Hitchiner’s products less competitive.

“It was great to host Senator Hassan at our facility and highlight our efforts to help prepare young people for good-paying jobs in manufacturing at businesses like ours,” Morison said after the event. “During the visit, we also discussed the impacts tariffs are having on businesses and consumers in New Hampshire, and I appreciate the senator’s work to try to alleviate that burden.”

In another matter, Hitchiner President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Damien discussed the company’s struggles to hire enough workers, despite a starting pay of $14.50 an hour. He said during the past few years, 300 people have been hired, but only 60 of them have stayed.

In response, the company has started a dedicated training center and is working with Milford High School on an internship program.

“Parents are key,” said Hassan, because they tend to think of manufacturing jobs as dirty and dangerous.

“What we have to avoid,” she said, is posing the choice of a career as one that will never change, when now there are multiple career pathways.

Regarding the tariffs, last week, Hassan and several Senate colleagues introduced legislation that would return more trade policy authority to Congress.

“Last week, I introduced bipartisan legislation to help relieve the burden that these tariffs have imposed on businesses in New Hampshire and across the country and I will continue working to protect our economy from the impacts of misguided trade policy,” she said Monday.

Joining Hassan to introduce the legislation were Republicans Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, as well as Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia. All senators spoke on the matter last week.

“Tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the U.S. are taxes paid by American consumers. The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security, is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations. I’ve seen, first-hand, the damage these taxes are causing across Pennsylvania,” Toomey said.

“Tariffs are tax increases on American workers and families,” Sasse said. “Yes, we have to get tough on China and others, but protectionism is weak – not strong.”

Warner: “We need to be tough on China’s unfair and illegal trade practices. But we need to work with our allies to do it. President Trump has strained our relationships with key allies and partners by abusing the authority that Congress granted him and stretching the concept of ‘national security’ beyond credulity.”

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100, or at kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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