Trump faces backlash for tariffs

Commentary

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:08 pm

President Donald Trump is getting a lot of pushback in Wisconsin for his 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, though imports from Canada and Mexico are exempt for now and could be for other U.S. allies.

The long list of objectors includes companies like MillerCoors LLC and Harley-Davidson Inc.

On Twitter, MillerCoors said a tariff on aluminum would “likely lead to job losses across the beer industry…American workers and American consumers will suffer as a result of this misguided tariff.”

Harley is worried about retaliatory tariffs planned by the European Union.

“A punitive, retaliatory tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles in any market would have a significant impact on our sales, our dealers, their suppliers and our customers in those markets,” Harley said in a statement.

Some conservatives, like Gov. Scott Walker, House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson have also criticized the Trump tariff proposal.

“Bemis (Co. Inc. in Neenah) and (Seneca Foods Corp. in Janesville) are two very specific examples of companies here in the State of Wisconsin that can be negatively affected (by the tariffs),” Walker said. “You have really an existential threat to businesses in the United States.”

It’s an interesting twist in the relationship between Walker and Trump. Remember, in 2015, they were both competing for the Republican Party nomination for president, and they have long had differing views on trade.

Walker has supported free trade as beneficial for Wisconsin manufacturers.

In his campaign, Trump was a harsh critic of U.S. trade policy, especially with China. He criticized Walker’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

During the first year of Trump’s administration, Walker has been supportive of the president. At a White House announcement in July, Walker thanked Trump for his role in talks to bring Foxconn Technology Group to Wisconsin. Walker also enthusiastically supported the tax cut plan passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump.

But now, Walker is speaking out strongly in opposition to Trump’s tariffs.

“These tariffs…will not only cause major disruption in the market and drive prices up, it will likely cause layoffs and plant closures, with jobs and operations shifting to other countries,” Walker said.

But while some fear a trade war, Trump says that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

On Twitter, Trump said, “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. 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!”

When he ran for president, Trump promised to get tough on trade. Like it or not, he is clearly eager to deliver on that campaign promise.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.