President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum has drawn both harsh criticism and loud praise from lawmakers, corporations and unions.
Republican Governor Scott Walker urged the president to reconsider his decision to impose tariffs of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminum imports respectively, arguing that the taxes would impact American companies negatively. Walker’s concern is that foreign countries, which export steel and aluminum to the U.S. might respond in kind with their own tariffs on U.S. products hurting U.S. manufacturers and, ultimately, American workers.
“As I described to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross last year, there is not a market in America that can support the demand for ultra-thin aluminum for employers here in Wisconsin and across the country,” Walker said in a statement. “Ironically, the American companies who will feel the negative impact of tariffs can actually move their operations to another country, such as Canada. This scenario would lead to the exact opposite outcome of the administration’s stated objective, which is to protect American jobs.”
Walker wasn’t alone.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also asked President Trump to reconsider the decision. “The Speaker is hoping the president will consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward,” a spokesman for the Speaker said yesterday.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts called the plan “terribly counterproductive” and Senator Ben Sasse called the plan “kooky.”
“Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries,” Sasse said. “Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides.”
The reactions stood in marked contrast to those of U.S. steel manufacturers and trade unions, who largely praised the move.
In an emailed statement to ITN, John Ferriola, Chairman, CEO and President of Nucor Corporation, one of the nation’s largest steel manufacturers said, “Nucor applauds President Trump’s decision…announcing strong and decisive action by imposing tariffs on steel imports that threaten our national security.”
“We are pleased that the President has decided to use all the tools at his disposal to send a clear message to foreign competitors that dumping steel products into our market will no longer be tolerated,” Ferriola added.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the sanctions “a great first step toward addressing trade cheating,” and said the AFL-CIO “will continue to work with the administration on rewriting trade rules to benefit working people.”
In a statement sent to ITN yesterday, President of the United Steelworkers’ union Leo W. Gerard said, “For the USW, the objective has always been to restore market-based economics that ensure that our domestic producers can achieve a fair return as they invest in facilities, equipment and people, and contribute to the strength of our nation.”
“The objective should also be to reduce the negative impact of steel and aluminum imports that have decimated production in the United States. The tariff levels the President announced will help to achieve that objective,” Gerard added.
Democratic lawmakers also encouraged the action by the President. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said “[The administration has]… been talking about this and walked up to the edge for 10-and-a-half months now, causing more steel job losses, causing more U.S. companies hardship, lost revenues, lower sales, and look where we are,” he said. “I want the president to move.”
Others were concerned about the potential impact on global commerce, and the ignitability of a trade war. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 500 points on news of the tariffs yesterday before recovering slightly. The average wound up closing more than 420 points down on the day.
The President seemed unfazed about, and even welcoming of, a potential fight. “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win,” he wrote on Twitter this morning.
“Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!” he added.