Every month, Jim Knott Jr. orders at least a thousand tons of steel rods for his wire factory here in the Blackstone Valley. But the shipment from Canada that arrived in June carried an unwelcome addition: an extra charge of $54,000 to cover a new tariff President Trump imposed on foreign steel as part of his aggressive trade policy.
The next shipment of imported steel cost Knott thousands of dollars extra, too. The whopping increase in costs has put Knott in an impossible position: His company, Riverdale Mills, processes the steel rods into coated wire mesh that is used to make most of the commercial lobster traps in the United States. Suddenly, Knott had to choose between eating the 25 percent surcharge or raising his prices and risking losing customers to cheaper foreign competitors.
For now, Knott has decided to eat the extra costs. But as Trump wheels between confrontation and negotiation with US trade partners, Knott said he is not sure how much longer he can hold the line.