The breath of President Donald Trump’s plan to put tariffs on steel and aluminum has been a problem for some Republicans in Congress, including GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.
“In today’s world, other countries aren’t going to sit idly by for broad tariffs,” said Paulsen, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of the House and Senate and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “It is one thing to do narrowly strategically focused tariffs where there’s been abuse. But broad tariffs can backfire in a hurry.”
Mine workers in Minnesota were happy with the president’s announcement, but large chunks of the state’s business community were not.
Charlie Weaver, head of the Minnesota Business Partnership, published an op-ed in Thursday’s Star Tribune in behalf of dozens of executives of the state’s biggest companies. Weaver warned of a trade war that could badly hurt major sectors of the state’s economy and raise consumer prices. The president’s announcement did nothing to assuage his members’ concerns.
“It’s simplistic and naive and just plain wrong,” Weaver said late Thursday afternoon.
In Minnesota, where medical device companies such as Medtronic, St. Jude and Boston Scientific use stainless steel in their products, and the state’s huge agricultural industry relies on international exports to countries affected by the tariffs, “there will be negative consequences, no doubt,” he said.
Robert Kudrle, a professor of international trade and investment policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs was not impressed with what the president judged to be flexibility and accommodation in applying the tariffs.
The Mexican and Canadian exclusions seem tied to those countries doing what the U.S. wants in NAFTA renegotiations, he said, and the promise to discuss alternatives individually with countries with whom the U.S. has a national security relationship is “verbal tossed salad.”
“As soon as you start working on a country-by-country basis, you have craziness,” he explained.
Kudrle also questioned the president’s insistence that the tariffs are necessary to ensure national security.
“This is virtually all protectionism,” he said. “We already have access to adequate aluminum and steel from reliable sources and national security partners.”
A high-ranking White House aide, who spoke on background to reporters, brushed off all concerns, branding them “fake news” fomented by “swamp creatures,” a reference to Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of politically connected Washington insiders.
There will be no inflationary effects, no job effects and no cost effects “downstream,” he insisted.