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Largest US nail manufacturer wins Section 232 exemption

Louisville, Kentucky — Mid Continent Steel & Wire, the largest nail manufacturer in the US, plans to ramp up production at its plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, after receiving an exemption this week from the US Department of Commerce from Section 232 tariffs, company spokespeople said Thursday.

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The company has spent more than nine months trying to drum up political support for an exemption from the 25% steel import tariffs slapped on China, Canada and Mexico and several other countries in June 2018. Company spokeswoman Elizabeth Heaton told S&P Global Platts that exemptions from 232 tariffs were rarely approved.

Mid Continent said it presented strong evidence that it qualified for exclusions. The company argued the tariffs had a damaging effect on the company, primarily because its foreign competitors could make nails abroad and export them to the US, free of the Section 232 duties. It also cited a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from US Representative Jackie Walorski, Republican-Indiana, in which she noted the two largest steelmakers prevailed in more than 95% of the cases in which they filed objections to exclusion requests.

Mid Continent was the first company to announce layoffs and a loss of customers as a result of the tariffs.

Spokesman Jim Glassman said Thursday that nearly 200 plant workers lost their jobs and the company suffered a 70% loss of business because of the tariffs. Mid Continent imports most of its raw materials to make nails from countries covered by the tariffs. Glassman said the company recently began recalling about 50 employees and would now begin ramping up production. Capacity figures were not disclosed. The plant now has about 350 employees.

Mid Continent makes Magnum nails and fastners, a major brand in North America.

-- Bob Matyi, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com