My Economy: The personal cost of a year of tariffs

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are headed to Beijing next week for another round of trade talks. The Chinese delegation is set to arrive in Washington a week later. The causal factor, of course, is President Trump’s tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and his threat to apply more.

But it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of other tariffs, including the ones on imports of steel and aluminum, which went into effect about a year ago. For some American businesses, these tariffs have changed everything. Sam Desai, vice president of metal trader and distributor RM Metals in Plainsfield, New Jersey, describes how the tariffs have affected his work life and family life.

My name is Sam Desai. I’m the vice president at RM Metals in South Plainfield, New Jersey.

They made their announcement on March 8 and [application of tariffs] started on March 23. We were shocked to see it. We had a vessel with metal on it that, instead of arriving on March 22, arrived on March 23 because of weather. And we ended up paying $70,000 in tariffs at the time. And many customers did not want to pay. The whole conversation was, how do we share that? And that’s where, you know, our margins basically are gone.

I’ve talked about the tariffs with family members who hear about the tariffs, and are all worried about it. I find myself working more than I was before. I’m not sure if this is how the new business model is, that you have to work, you know, more hours, keep thinking about different factors and issues out there. I try to do my best to separate home life and work life. But sometimes it’s very hard, because of the regular flow of things today.

Definitely, I do come in on the weekends and whenever time permits to work. And I do miss certain events if I have to. I was in India recently, and I could not visit all my family. Instead, I was visiting customers and suppliers. And, you know, it’s kind of sad that we go so far without the time to visit our own family members.

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