Trade Cases

Trump Talks Tariffs at White House Session

Written by Sandy Williams


At a meeting with lawmakers this morning, President Donald Trump said imposing tariffs is an option for stopping the dumping of steel and aluminum into the U.S.

“I want to keep prices down, but I want to make sure that we have a steel industry,” said Trump, according to a Bloomberg report.

“Part of the options would be tariffs coming in. As they dump steel, they pay tariffs, substantial tariffs, which means the United States would actually make a lot of money,” said Trump.

“Right now our steel and aluminum industry is decimated,” said Trump.

Fifteen Republicans and four Democrats met with the president to discuss possible actions on the import of steel and aluminum under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) cautioned against using Section 232. “Invoking national security, when I think it’s really hard to make that case, invites retaliation,” he told Trump. “I would urge us to go very, very cautiously here.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) noted that only 3 percent of imported steel is used for national-security purposes. However, Trump countered by saying that the percentage will go up with defense budget increases.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested a “much more surgical way” of applying Section 232 by imposing tariffs on imports from certain countries and quotas on those suspected of transshipment.

During the meeting, Trump reiterated his proposal of a reciprocal tax. The U.S. is paying massive taxes to send products to other countries, while letting other countries’ products come to the U.S. with zero tax. They are charging us “massive tariffs,” he said.

“I think we should have a reciprocal tax. That’s called fair trade,” Trump said. He used as an example sales of Harley Davidson motorcycles in India, which only recently agreed to reduce tariffs. Ultimately, reciprocal taxes may lower duties for everyone, Trump said.

“What’s going to happen is either we’ll collect the same that they collect, or probably they’ll end up not charging a tax and we won’t have a tax, and that becomes free trade,” he said.

Trump brushed off concerns about the negative effects tariffs might have on the U.S. job market, saying foreign companies would just “eat a lot of the tax.”

Trump complained about Canadian trade practices regarding lumber and “Wisconsin and our farmers,” prompting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to state: “Trade works very well for Wisconsin.”  Johnson added that the trade focus should be on the “value-added thing” and not on trying to draw “high-labor content manufacturing” back to the United States during its lowest unemployment rate in 17 years.

Trump downplayed the idea that quotas and tariffs were unsuccessful in 2002. “It didn’t work for Bush, but it worked for others. It did work for others.”

Trump said the Section 232 reports from the Commerce Department are still under review, but did not indicate when a final decision would be made.

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