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Largest US nail manufacturer lays off employees, warns it may have to shut down over Trump tariffs

A man works in a steel distribution factory in Monterrey in northern Mexico on May 31. Rising costs as a result of Trump administration tariffs on imports of steel from Mexico have caused the largest nail manufacturer in the U.S. to lay off employees. (Julio Cesar Aguiler / AFP)

The largest manufacturer of nails in the United States has laid off 12 percent of its staff and warned that it might have to shut down completely. The company blamed this on Trump's tariffs on steel imports, which increased the price of steel for U.S. companies.

What are the details?

Mid-Continent Nail laid off 60 of its 500 workers workers at its plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. On CNN, a company spokesperson warned that this was likely only the beginning.

Although Mid-Continent Nail is an American company, it imports steel from Mexico. When the Trump administration slapped a 25 percent tariff on all steel imports to the United States, Mid-Continent Nail was forced to raise its prices. That led to a 50 percent drop in sales.

Mexico was initially exempted from the steel and aluminum tariffs, as were Canada and the European Union. However, on May 31, the White House announced that these exemptions would end at the end of that day.

Company spokesperson (and former undersecretary of state under George W. Bush) James Glassman said that the tariffs made it impossible for Mid-Continent Nail to compete with Chinese prices.

During a CNN interview, Glassman argued that Trump's tariffs were doing "what years of cheating by Chinese nail exporters couldn't do."

Before the tariffs took effect, Mid-Continent Nail had doubled the size of the workforce it had in 2013.

Glassman told CNN host Poppy Harlow that there was a real possibility that the company might try to relocate to Mexico, where its steel supplier is located. Since the current tariffs only apply to raw materials, nails manufactured in Mexico could be sold in the United States at a lower cost.

Glassman said that this was "obviously an option," but "something the company absolutely does not want to do. It wants to save the jobs in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and I hope the president of the United States wants to save those jobs as well. He has it within his power to do that — to save these jobs."

What about an exclusion?

Mid-Continent Nail has filed for an exclusion to the tariffs. But so have 21,000 other American companies. "The president can save 500 jobs by granting an exclusion," Glassman said on CNN, "but obviously the policy is what caused this."

What else?

Not everyone is hurting from the tariffs. Magnitude 7 Metals in New Madrid County, Missouri, was able to reopen an aluminum product line and rehire 450 workers. But Glassman and other representatives of companies impacted argue that there are more jobs hurt by the tariffs than there are in the steel and aluminum industry.

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