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Donald Trump

Trump to push ahead with tariffs despite House Speaker’s warning of risk to economy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 4:56am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 12:05pm

President Donald Trump declared that he won’t retreat from his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports after House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected the plan, saying the US economy could suffer.

Asked Monday about the remarks from Ryan’s office, Trump was undeterred.

“No, we’re not backing down,” he told reporters at the White House, less than an hour after the speaker’s office aired his concerns.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardise those gains.”

Strong’s comments marked an unusual public break between Ryan and the president and came after other congressional Republicans criticised Trump’s plans for tariffs. Ryan of Wisconsin has supported Trump even in some of the most controversial moments of his presidency.

While Trump has regularly railed about China’s trade practises, the impact of the tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium may be most felt by US allies, the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

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Harley-Davidson Inc., the motorcycle maker based in Ryan’s home state, is facing threats of retaliation from Europe over Trump’s plans for steel and aluminium tariffs. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU may target imports of the company’s motorcycles as well as Kentucky bourbon and Levi Strauss jeans. Harley already is being hit by a deepening slump in US motorcycle demand, which has spurred job cuts and a plant closure at the Milwaukee-based company.

House Republicans tasked with tax and trade policy are drafting a letter addressed to Trump “expressing concerns about ‘the prospect of broad, global tariffs on aluminium and steel imports,”’ according to Lauren Aronson, a spokeswoman for the Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas has urged more targeted tariffs on unfairly traded products, rather than broad measures that could hurt economic growth, Aronson said.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, tweeted about his bill to limit the president’s ability to impose tariffs without approval from Congress. “In a government system with checks and balances, the President should not have the power to unilaterally levy or alter tariffs,” he wrote.

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Trade is one of the most glaring policy disagreements between Trump and Republican lawmakers. Conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, a pro-free market organisation, have cautioned that tariffs would hurt the economy and Republican chances to hold on to both chambers of Congress in this year’s midterm elections.

“The idea of imposing steel or aluminium tariffs of any kind is an affront to economic freedom,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “Tariffs will also harm the pro-growth effects of the tax cuts, stall the economy, incite a trade war, and help hand the election to the Democrats.”