US contractors call on Biden to cut tariffs on construction materials

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has written an open letter to US president Joe Biden warning of the effects of recent increases in materials prices.

According to the AGC, the cost of materials such as lumber and steel have reached "record-setting levels", partly as a result of tariff levels.

A press release from the trade body added that contractors were facing long delivery times for materials, exacerbating the disruption caused by illness and Covid-19 site restrictions.

The price for non-residential materials and services increased 2.5% between December and January, and 10.7% since April last year.

Stephen Sandherr, the AGC’s chief executive, said: "Left unchecked, these rising materials prices threaten to undermine the economic recovery by inflating the cost of infrastructure and economic development projects.

"Widespread harm is caused by maintaining tariffs on products that so many Americans need to improve their houses, modernise their infrastructure and revitalise their economy."

Ken Simonson, the AGC’s chief economist, said: "While contractors have kept bids nearly flat until now, project owners and budget officials should anticipate the prospect that contractors will have to pass along their higher costs in upcoming bids.

"The framing lumber composite price compiled by the publication Random Lengths hit an all-time high last week. Several steel product prices are also reported at record levels, and copper futures are at an eight-year peak. Meanwhile, delivery delays are affecting both imports and domestically sourced construction inputs."

Image: Construction in New York (Elisa No Kim/Dreamstime)

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