Trump resists GOP pressure on tariffs
Warning of economic fallout, congressional Republicans and industry groups pressed President Donald Trump on Tuesday to narrow his plan for across-the-board tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Trump appeared unmoved, declaring: “Trade wars aren’t so bad.”
The president said he planned to move forward with special tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, contending the U.S. has long been “mistreated” in trade deals.
“We’re doing tariffs on steel. We cannot lose our steel industry. It’s a fraction of what it once was. And we can’t lose our aluminum industry,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
The president’s pledge for action, which would be in line with one of his campaign promises, came after House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin called for a “more surgical approach” that would help avert a potentially dangerous trade war. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said there was concern Trump’s plan could lead to such disruptive turmoil.
“We are urging caution,” McConnell said.
Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who opposes the tariffs, said after meeting Tuesday with White House chief of staff John Kelly that the administration was willing to consider his views. “Absolutely. There’s an openness now,” Perdue said.
“I think there’s been a step back,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “I don’t think he’s reconsidering, but I think he’s trying to figure out what his best step is forward.”
But those views sounded more like wishful thinking after Trump’s news conference, in which he reiterated his plans to impose the tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports. He said he’d respond to unfair treatment by foreign countries and huge trade deficits. “We’re going to straighten it out, and we’ll do it in a very loving way,” Trump said.
The president also reaffirmed the possibility that Canada and Mexico might not face the tariffs if they are willing to offer more favorable terms under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is being renegotiated.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Trump was trying to balance protections for beleaguered steel and aluminum producers while “making sure that we don’t do undue harm to the economy.”
“We are not looking to get into trade wars. We are looking to make sure that U.S. companies can compete fairly around the world,” Mnuchin said at a House hearing.