On Monday, GOP leaders in Congress stepped up their efforts to stop the proposal by President Donald Trump to implement global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The lawmakers fear that this move could be counterproductive on the US economy and will muddle the GOP’s message in the upcoming midterms.
AshLee Strong, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, told reporters that Republican lawmakers are worried about the implications of a trade war between the US and other economic powers. A letter from the House Ways and Means Committee urging the President to narrow down on the tariffs was also in circulation yesterday as high-ranking Senate Republicans voiced their opposition to the plan.
However, Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a senior member of the GOP, expressed confidence that Trump will ultimately abandon the proposal. Orrin also blamed White House trade advisor Peter Navarro for steering the president towards trade protectionism.
Trump wants to impose global tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as a strategy to revive America’s steel industry. The president thinks that for far too long the US has been ripped off on trade. According to him, the global trade tariffs will help address this issue.
But opposition to this proposal is coming from all quarters. A few days after the proposal was announced, Republican lawmakers started to express their concerns. Many say that the tariffs could easily backfire on US businesses and consumers. Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is one of the senior GOP members who are opposing the tariffs. Cornyn fears that the cost implications of tariffs for imported steel and aluminum would eventually trickle down to consumers.
On the other hand, Senator John Thune of South Dakota said that this proposal is not a smart economic policy for the US. The Senator expressed fear that protectionism could damage some of the economic progress that President Trump has made so far. Efforts within the White House to dissuade the President have also been ongoing. Reports indicate that senior White House aides like Gary Cohn who is also the director of the National Economic Council have been trying to convince the president to reconsider the new tariffs.
But Trump has made it clear he will not back down. The White House is planning to impose a 25% import tax on steel and 10% on aluminum. The tariffs will affect steel importers into the country including some of the most important US allies.
The logic behind the new global tariffs has also been questioned. Although Trump says that the import tax will revive the US steel industry, recent data shows that domestic production of steel in the fourth quarter of 2017 was double compared to 2009 after the recession. Data also shows that domestic steel production in 2017 was higher than the average produced over the last 25 years.
Officials at the white house are yet to determine how precisely the tariffs will be applied. There is a debate of whether US allies should be exempted or not. But increasing pressure from GOP senior lawmakers could jeopardize the plan altogether.