U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the EU went into effect today, and now the world is waiting to see if a trade war breaks out. If it does, glass and fenestration products potentially could play a small role in the fight.

Laminated glass and doors and windows are on a list of U.S. goods that the EU could tax in retaliation for the U.S. slapping import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. However, those are not products that the U.S. exports to the EU in large numbers.

According to the 2016 Top Markets report from the U.S. International Trade Administration, no EU countries are listed among the top 10 importers of glass made in the U.S. (Canada represents more than half of all U.S. flat glass exports.) The U.S. is expected to export $1.07 billion in glass globally in 2018, according to the report.

That’s because the European Union, which has about 50 float lines within its member countries, produces enough glass to satisfy its internal markets. A 2014 report from the Centre for European Policy Studies found that imports into Europe peaked in 2007 at approximately 11 percent of total EU production, and it has dropped below 10 percent since then. Most of the EU’s imported glass comes from China.

The EU isn’t dependent on imports of doors and windows from here, either. Of the 154 countries that the U.S. exports doors and windows to, only two in the EU rank in the top 10 — the Netherlands (No. 7) and the U.K. (No. 8). That’s according to the recently published “2017 Top Markets Report Building Products Sector Snapshot: U.S. Window and Door Exports” from the U.S. International Trade Administration. Most U.S. door and window exports — about 63 percent — go to our major North American trading partners.

“For the U.S. industry, the importance of Canada and Mexico as export markets cannot be overstated,” the report reads. “In 2016, fully 54 percent of U.S. exports went to Canada and an additional 9 percent went to Mexico. While significantly different in market size, growth profile, development status and business customs, these two leading markets share important attributes: tariff-free market access for U.S. windows and doors; proximity to consumers; ease of product transport; and broad acceptance of U.S. building products in construction.”

However, that tariff-free access appears to be coming to an end for many types of products.

Canada announced on Thursday that it “intends to impose surtaxes or similar trade-restrictive countermeasures against up to C$16.6 billion in imports of steel, aluminum, and other products from the U.S., representing the value of 2017 Canadian exports affected by the U.S. measures,” the nation’s government said in a statement. The sanctions will begin on July 1 and last until the U.S. revokes its tariffs.

Among the items that will face duties are “aluminum structures and parts of structures,” including “doors and windows and their frames and thresholds for doors, balustrades, pillars and columns; aluminum plates, rods, profiles, tubes and the like.” Glass is not on the list.

Aluminum doors, windows, frames and thresholds represent 17.7 percent of U.S. global exports in the doors and windows sector, according to the U.S. Trade Administration.

Mexico also announced on Thursday that it would slap duties on a range of products from the U.S. They mostly target agricultural goods, though.

“In response to the tariffs imposed by the United States, Mexico will impose equivalent measures to various products like flat steels (hot and cold foil, including coated and various tubes), lamps, legs and shoulders of pork, sausages and food preparations, apples, grapes, blueberries, various cheeses, among others, up to an amount comparable to the level of affectation,” the country’s government said in a statement, according to The Hill.

Business Associations React

Many business associations in the U.S. issued statements condemning the tariffs on aluminum and steel imports:

  • “The Aluminum Association was disappointed by today’s announcement that expands Section 232 aluminum tariffs to additional vital trading partner countries,” said Heidi Brock, president and  CO of the trade group. “The association, which represents the majority of aluminum production and jobs in the United States, believes that no country that operates as a market economy should be subject to unnecessary and disruptive tariffs or quotas. The administration’s trade remedies should specifically target structural aluminum overcapacity in China, which is caused by rampant, illegal government subsidies in that country.”
  • “Extending the reach of these tariffs and quotas to additional countries is certain to provoke widespread retaliation from abroad and would put at risk the economic momentum achieved through the administration’s tax and regulatory reforms,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and head of international affairs Myron Brilliant. “We urge the administration to take this risk seriously.”
  • “WDMA is extremely disappointed with the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from these countries,” said WDMA President and CEO Michael O’Brien. “Window, door and skylight manufacturers and their suppliers have been dealing with price increases resulting from the tariffs on steel and aluminum enacted in March. These additional tariffs will result in further price increases for the residential and commercial construction markets, while hindering progress on renegotiating NAFTA. WDMA urges the Trump administration to reconsider this onerous action.”

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