Most reactions to Trump tariffs negative
March 8, 2018
Congressional, farm and business leaders generally reacted negatively to President Donald Trump's announcement today of tariffs on steel and aluminum, but some expressed relief that they would not be applied, at least immediately, to Mexico and Canada, and they also urged him to follow through on his promise to be flexible in his application of the tariffs to all countries.
Trump announced the tariffs with fanfare in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with steel and aluminum industry workers as witnesses. The 25 percent tariff on steel and the 10 percent tariff on aluminum will go into effect in 15 days, on March 23. Trump maintains the tariffs are needed to secure these industries as a matter of national security.
National security allies will be allowed to negotiate individually for relief from the tariffs, but the U.S. decision will depend on whether the Trump administration decides the other countries are paying their full military share, Washington Trade Daily reported.
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who will be in charge of these negotiations, issued only a three-sentence statement.
“These tariffs are a major unforced error by President Trump, putting America’s economic progress at risk.” Joshua Bolten, Business Roundtable president and CEO
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"Under the leadership of President Trump, America has a robust trade agenda that supports our national security," Lighthizer said.
"The president is once again demonstrating he will protect our country, fight for American workers and strictly enforce our trade laws. I will work closely with other Cabinet officials to advise the president on how to implement the program on steel and aluminum that he announced today."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who argued inside the administration for the tariffs, said, "President Trump is taking action today to protect both our national security and critical industries to our economy."
"The president's decision regarding the steel and aluminum Section 232 reports are the result of a long and well-thought-out process led by the Commerce Department. Once again, President Trump is keeping his promises and standing up for American families, American businesses, and American workers."
ON THE HILL
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, "I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences. I am pleased that the president has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further."
"We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law. There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement against those practices. Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that he and other senators worry about the tariffs' effects in Kentucky and beyond, the Courier Journal reported.
"I am pleased to see that the administration today made accommodations for some of our trading partners and allies," McConnell was quoted as saying.
"However, important questions remain about whether ultimately these tariffs will be sufficiently targeted, tailored and limited."
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who also sits on the Senate Finance Committee, said, "This proposal is not a tariff on steel and aluminum imports; it is a tax on consumers."
"As we have seen in past cases of increased tariffs, higher manufacturing costs will inevitably be passed down the supply chain, forcing consumers to bear these costs. While I agree action should be taken to address overcapacity of steel and aluminum, using Section 232 as a tool to impose global tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum would have detrimental consequences to the U.S. economy.
"The proposed tariffs would nullify the positive gains created by the recent tax reform package passed by Congress," Roberts said. "Like we have seen in the past, American agriculture often pays the price. We need a trade policy that is stable and beneficial to all industries."
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said, "We appreciate the president's resolve to prevent unfair trade practices that harm American businesses, however we need to take a targeted and strategic approach."
"While the provisional exemption of Mexico and Canada is good, we are concerned that broad tariffs on steel and aluminum could cost American jobs and lead to retaliation by major trading partners that could harm other U.S. sectors, like agriculture and energy."
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "I certainly agree with President Trump's desire to protect American workers, but I do not believe that applying broad tariffs is the right means to that end."
"The economy is doing well as a result of the tax cuts and our efforts to cut regulatory red tape. We do not want to stop that growth by creating an all-out trade war, and there is considerable concern that far-reaching tariffs might escalate to that level.
"The president has suggested that his policy will be applied with discretion. I encourage him to implement it in a manner that does not result in a situation that will hurt American exporters."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, "Simply put: This is a tax hike on American manufacturers, workers and consumers."
"Slapping aluminum and steel imports with tariffs of this magnitude is misguided. It undermines the benefits that the new tax law provides and runs counter to our goal of advancing pro-growth trade policies that will keep America competitive in the 21st century global economy.
"We share a common goal of making trade work for all Americans and it's unfortunate that this decision will have harmful implications for American businesses, workers and consumers who rely on these products.
"I will continue to work with the administration to revisit this decision and hopefully mitigate the damage it will cause to our nation's economic growth."
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said, "The announcement today raises more questions than it answers."
"Americans are still waiting for a real solution to the fundamental issue: China's unfair trade tactics, including massive overcapacity in steel and aluminum. Our workers and businesses need focused action that will end China's policies, discourage such behavior in the future and address the issues oversupply causes in the world market.
"These actions need to give American workers a fair shake and bring back jobs in industries important to our national security. It is too soon to tell whether this administration is up to the task of delivering that kind of action."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said "While I share the president's concerns regarding Chinese steel overcapacity, I am disappointed by the administration's approach to this problem and ultimate decision to use a rarely used national security provision to implement new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports."
"A better way to level the playing field for American companies would be to rally our friends and allies to advance a robust, targeted effort to ensure that only those responsible for excess global capacity pay a price.
"Unfortunately, I fear this announcement could have far-reaching unintended consequences that will put at risk the hard fought economic gains U.S. businesses have seen over the past year. Hopefully, the president will come to realize this possibility and further narrow this announced policy."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a former U.S. trade representative, said, "Action is needed to address the worldwide overcapacity of steel, but I believe we should take a more targeted approach."
"We should focus on countries that distort markets and repeatedly violate trade laws, and on the steel and aluminum products that are most at risk from a national security perspective. I am concerned that broad-based tariffs will have unintended consequences for downstream steel and aluminum users and will unnecessarily invite retaliation in the form of tariffs against U.S. exports.
"We need a more balanced approach that provides relief for the U.S. steel industry in a targeted way, by countries and products," Portman said. "For example, we know that imports of grain-oriented electrical steel have increased by 101 percent in the last year while prices dropped between 30 to 35 percent."
Portman noted that he, and Democratic Sens.Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania urged Trump in a letter to prioritize electrical steel in any section 232 trade remedy.
"As currently constructed, AK Steel, the last electrical steel manufacturer in the United States, is unlikely to fully benefit from the remedy announced today."
Portman added, "I'm pleased that administration officials have indicated that there may be some exemptions from this policy, including for Canada and Mexico while an updated NAFTA is negotiated. In addition, I continue to believe that we must do more to use the tools we have available to us to protect American jobs.
"I am co-author of the Leveling the Playing Field Act and the ENFORCE Act, new tools that can be used to protect American jobs from unfairly traded imports. I believe these tools should be used more aggressively to combat transshipment of steel and hold accountable countries that violate our trade laws and international rules."
Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said "While I appreciate that the administration took a step in the right direction and recognized the importance of trade with Mexico and Canada for manufacturers in Indiana, we must ensure global supply chains with other strategic partners remain open as well."
"I will keep working with Hoosier stakeholders and the administration to address the core issue of Chinese overcapacity so that we can continue to reinvigorate the American steel and aluminum industries."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, "President Trump's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs risks a global trade war where the only guarantee is higher prices for Californian businesses and consumers."
"The president claims he's acting to protect American jobs, but his misguided actions instead endanger the jobs of thousands of Californians, from longshoremen and manufacturers to agriculture workers and construction workers.
"Almost 25 percent of the steel and aluminum imported the United States comes through California's ports, generating more than $4 billion in trade activity. And California's manufacturers rely on those imports to produce everything from the steel beams used to build Costco warehouses to the aluminum cans that sit on the shelves.
"Our trade partners, including the European Union, are now threatening reprisals, hitting American products with retaliatory tariffs. California's agriculture exports and Levi's blue jeans are already in the crosshairs.
"Instead of targeting nations that are trading unfairly, the president has decided to penalize our closest partners and allies. His actions will only further isolate the United States, undermining the international trade system that has benefitted the United States the most.
"President Trump thinks trade wars are easy to win, but unless the president reverses course, it will be American consumers, workers and families who will lose."
House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., said, "China's unfair trade practices have led to severe overcapacity in the steel and aluminum sectors that has devastated U.S. industries."
"As a result, American producers have shuttered their plants and workers have lost their jobs. It appears that the president is finally taking an action today to fulfill a nearly year-old promise to U.S. steel and aluminum producers and workers.
"You wouldn't necessarily know that, because for the last week he's pursued a chaotic process and used punishing rhetoric that treats all U.S. trading partners as national security concerns and fails to recognize the complexities of our market. Our workers and producers in steel and aluminum deserve effective relief, which will require strong and coordinated action with our allies.
"I expect the administration to ramp up its engagement with Congress, stakeholders, and our trading partners to ensure that today's actions lead to a sustainable solution that confronts the problems that we all know have been caused by China's rampant overcapacity in steel and aluminum."
BUSINESS, FARM, UNION GROUPS
Business Roundtable President & CEO Joshua Bolten said, "These tariffs are a major unforced error by President Trump, putting America's economic progress at risk."
"The tariffs will cause significant harm to industries that rely on imported steel and aluminum. Higher production costs will make American-made products more expensive and less competitive around the world — putting tens of thousands of American jobs at risk.
"Our nation's trading partners can and will retaliate by imposing new tariffs of their own. Furthermore, using 'national security' as an excuse to unilaterally impose tariffs opens the door for other countries to do the same – allowing them to bypass long-established international trade rules to gain an unfair advantage over American businesses and workers.
"Business Roundtable CEOs appreciate President Trump's focus on defending American businesses and workers. But this proposal — even with limited exemptions for Canada and Mexico — will do far more harm than good while making little progress to counteract global steel and aluminum overcapacity."
Farmers for Free Trade, the coalition co-chaired by former Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said "We expect that these tariffs will cause retaliation that will come out of the pockets of American farmers."
"History shows that these types of tariff fights escalate with our trading partners and result in farmers paying the price in the form of higher tariffs on the products we export. We'll also see the price of ag equipment and inputs increase. While we need tough trade enforcement, we need to be smart about avoiding global trade fights that hurt American agriculture.
"In the weeks and months ahead, Farmers for Free Trade will be leading the fight to show the harmful impacts of these tariffs for our farmers and rural communities."
American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer, an Iowa farmer, said, "These tariffs are a disastrous course of action from the White House. They may lead to retaliation by one or more of our valuable trading partners, which in turn will kneecap demand for soybeans in a time when the farm economy is struggling."
"We have heard directly from the Chinese that U.S. soybeans are prime targets for retaliation. The idea that we're the only game in town, and these partners have no choice but to purchase from the U.S. is flatly wrong. Our competition in Brazil and Argentina is eager to capitalize on whatever openings these tariffs create for them in markets like China and elsewhere.
"Throughout this process, we've met with officials at Commerce, with Treasury, with USTR and with White House staff. It is unfortunate that our input was not taken into account given the announcement today.
"While we are deeply disappointed and concerned, we reaffirm our commitment to sit down with the president and communicate the importance of trade for soybean farmers. There is absolutely a way to encourage growth in domestic industry without cannibalizing the success of agricultural trade. With these tariffs, the administration has taken the opposite approach, and sacrificed the progress and potential of farmers."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argued there is no danger that Trump's new tariffs will start a trade war, The Hill reported.
"Tariffs won't start a trade war, there's 435 of them in place today to fight trade cheaters. People may not like how Pres Trump rolled these out, but I applaud him for trying," Trumka tweeted.
Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said, "After a nearly year-long investigation, President Trump took action on Thursday to curb steel and aluminum imports. America's steel and aluminum workers and companies will stabilize after years of unfair competition, regain market share and even hire more workers."
"'Already, more than 500 people are headed back to work in Granite City, as U.S. Steel announced it will restart a blast furnace there.
"On top of that, this action will go a long way toward securing our national defense, as it will allow American companies to continue to provide the steel and aluminum needed to equip the military and build critical infrastructure."
–The Hagstrom Report