In this May 19, 2018, photo, a worker positions a roll of steel plate at a dockyard in Qidong in eastern China's Jiangsu province. China appealed Friday, June 1, 2018, to its trading partners to reject "trade and investment protectionism" after Washington raised tariffs on steel imports and said it will impose curbs on Chinese investment. (Chinatopix via AP)

Respected economists are raising the alarm that there is a high probability of an economic recession this year. But you don’t need to be an economist to see the warning signs.

The businesses that are part of the Ethiopian Community of Colorado are struggling to recoup their losses from the pandemic while suffering from inflation, supply chain disruptions, and dismal workforce numbers. 45% of small businesses report that they have job openings which they cannot fill, and one in four small business owners listed inflation as their most important concern.

My fellow small business owners and I cannot weather these challenges on our own –
Colorado’s Congressional Delegation – Republicans and Democrats alike – need to step up and provide real help. This assistance is desperately needed, especially for small businesses run by people of color. Minority owned businesses already face a variety of barriers to opening and maintaining a successful business. The Brookings Institute found that nearly three quarters of Black and Asian owned small businesses report difficulty in paying back their operating costs, compared to 63% of white owned small businesses. They additionally found that over half of Black business owners report difficulty in accessing credit.

Colorado’s vibrant economy has been fueled by small business owners who are immigrants. In 2020, immigrant business owners generated over $1 billion in business income for the state of Colorado and one in six business owners in the Denver/Aurora metro owner are immigrants.

Lawmakers need to do all they can to not only support Colorado’s minority owned small
businesses but encourage more to open and prosper. One action lawmakers can take is to urge the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to reverse their recent decision to maintain the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Late last year, the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a 94 page decision, finding that the Section 232 tariffs violate international trade rules. The WTO found fault in the US’s justification that the tariffs were imposed in the interest of national security, as they were not imposed during wartime or similar international relations’ emergency.

The US response was swift, and unfortunately predictable: the same day that the WTO published their decision, the USTR released a statement rejecting the report’s “flawed interpretation and conclusions”. They added, “The Biden Administration is committed to preserving U.S. national security by ensuring the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, and we do not intend to remove the Section 232 duties as a result of these disputes”.

This response could not be more baffling to business owners like myself. Not only do these
tariffs restrict free trade at the international level, they are also causing direct harm to America’s small businesses.

That is why I am calling on Colorado’s Congressional representation to demand that the USTR reverse this decision, and at long last do away with these counterproductive tariffs. Like it or not, the fact is that the US does not, and physically cannot, produce enough aluminum domestically to meet demand, and as such relies on foreign imports. Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a true Statesman from a State that has produced many, is leading the charge to make these necessary reforms. Both of our United Senators and the eight House Members from Colorado should join him.

The trickle-down impact of these tariffs has been the dramatic increase in the price of aluminum since 2018. In March 2018, aluminum was trading at about $2000 per ton. Currently, aluminum is worth roughly $2,500/ton — a significant increase, especially for penny pinching small businesses struggling to stay afloat. Furthermore, this is following a recent price stabilization, with aluminum prices peaking at $3800 a ton last February. This results in increased production costs for small businesses, many of which cannot take another economic hit without being forced to execute layoffs, raise prices for consumers, or even go out of business.

Minority and immigrant owned businesses create jobs and support Colorado’s economic success.

That is why I am asking our lawmakers in Washington to support those who have suffered from much economic hardship in the past two years, and remove one extra burden from their load.

Make 2023 the year that the US removes these barriers to free trade which have only served to hurt Colorado’s small businesses, who have no part in a trade war which began five years ago.

Samuel G. Michael is the President of the Colorado Ethiopian Community

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1 Comment

  1. It astounds me how our nation opens its doors to immigrants and offers them a bevy of special services and benefits, yet they still come with hands extended for more special carve-outs and direct assistance from the taxpayers.

    Foreign-born businesses face NO extra burden from the pandemic than everyone else. They are entitled to no more adjustments than anyone else who runs a business.

    If businesses of color fail at a higher rate than others, perhaps too many people of color are venturing where they are unqualified, but likely were incented to go, because of “equity.”

    This, in a nutshell, is the fatal flaw of the DEI movement.

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