CT lawmakers differ on Trump tariff plan


President Donald Trump delivers remarks before signing his orders imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Washington – Connecticut lawmakers had different reactions to President Donald Trump’s plan to impose new tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.

“This relief will help our domestic steel industry to revive idled facilities, open closed mills, preserve necessary skills by hiring new steel workers, and maintain or increase production, which will reduce our nation’s need to rely on foreign producers for steel and ensure that domestic producers can continue to supply all the steel necessary for critical industries and national defense,” Trump’s proclamation on the new steel tariffs said.

Organized labor supports the new tariffs.

But Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, called them “backward-looking,” and said other nations are moving in the opposite direction – toward free trade.

“Today, while President Trump is talking about taking our economy back to 1930 with a potential trade war, the eleven countries that remain in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are moving forward to finalize a 21st century trade agreement forged in part through previous U.S. leadership,” Himes said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District

He also said, “Trump’s ‘go-it-alone’ strategy, enabled by congressional Republicans, is weakening America’s position abroad and limiting the opportunity for American workers, businesses, and farmers. “

On the other end of the spectrum, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, who opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, supported Trump’s imposition of new tariffs, which will go into effect in 15 days.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers and communities, as well as critical infrastructure and defense supply chains in America, depend upon the steel industry,” DeLauro said. “They deserve real enforcement of our laws to hold bad actors accountable, and the administration is correct in taking the actions outlined today.”

In September, DeLauro wrote Trump urging him to take “immediate action” under a rarely used trade law known as Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act that allows the president to impose restrictions on imports to protect national security interests.

DeLauro told Trump that imported steel was taking up to 30 percent of the domestic market, hurting U.S. steelworkers.

In two reports, the Commerce Department found cheap foreign exports of steel and aluminum, which many blame on Chinese overproduction, pose a threat to national security by hurting domestic production. It recommended Trump take action under Section 232.

Trump’s tariff plan has split congressional lawmakers – but not strictly along party lines.

Democrats who are strong supporters of organized labor, like DeLauro, and Trump’s GOP  loyalists – supported the president’s move.

But other Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., rejected the president’s plan.

”I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences,” Ryan said.

Like other lawmakers, Ryan urged the president to narrow the number of countries that would be subject to the new tariffs

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-!st District

“There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement against those practices,” Ryan said.

On MSNBC Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said it’s “an open secret” China has been “dumping” steel at low cost to hurt the U.S. steel industry.

Murphy said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that we are in a trade war with China,” and that the United States should be more aggressive in this fight.

But he said announcing tariffs without consulting allies that aren’t dumping that product in the United States,” would “set off a series of consequences that are both economic and strategic.”

“You have a potential fissure between the United States and Europe on trade now that comes at the worst time,” Murphy said, “That’s what the Russians are rooting for: a breakup of the transatlantic alliance.”

Trump’s proclamations seem to allow for other exemptions, besides Mexico and Canada.

His orders say any nation “with which we have a security relationship is welcome to discuss with the United States alternative ways to address the threatened impairment of the national security caused by imports from that country.”

The tariffs would be lifted if a country arrives “at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat.”

To Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, Trump’s proposals leave too many people guessing.

Larson said it’s not clear “what the effects would be, who would be impacted, and whether there would be exemptions.”

“Our main concern as a manufacturing state would be the downstream impact on businesses that make up our manufacturing ecosystem,” he said.

For many manufacturers who rely on steel and aluminum, the cost of manufacturing would rise. U.S. automakers and others, including the nation’s large defense contractors, are also worried about retaliation by foreign nations that import their products.

Business groups say U.S. consumers will face higher prices for automobiles, appliances and other consumer goods.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. on Thursday said he will introduce legislation to nullify the tariffs. “I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy,” Flake said.