Ryan, Johnson speak out against Trump tariffs
MADISON — Wisconsin's three highest-ranking Republicans — House Speaker Paul Ryan, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker — all decried the move Thursday by President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, saying it could spark a trade war and hurt Wisconsin's manufacturing and agricultural industries.
The state's most prominent Democrat, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, had a more measured response. Without coming out in favor or against the tariffs, Baldwin said the move "sends a strong message to bad actors like China" but also called for Trump to exempt European trading partners and do more to "target China's cheating."
Baldwin, who like Walker is up for re-election in November, said the best way to support Wisconsin workers is to enact strong buy-American standards like she's supported and renegotiate a better deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump, who announced the move surrounded by steelworkers, said he was fulfilling a campaign promise. He excluded Mexico and Canada from the tariffs, following pressure from fellow Republicans to get him to reconsider, but still pressed ahead with the tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Walker on Thursday repeated his call for Trump to reconsider, saying "these tariffs will negatively impact key industries and employers in Wisconsin." Johnson called the move a "very risky action" that could spark a trade war and have "very serious unintended consequences."
"I'm not sure there are any winners in trade wars," said Johnson, who ran a plastics manufacturing business in Wisconsin before being elected to the Senate. "There may be people who lose less."
Ryan said he would continue to urge the president to focus the tariffs only on countries that violate trade law, like China.
"Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law," he said.
Johnson said he expected Trump's action, which takes effect in 15 days, to be challenged in court and he would support Congress passing laws to curtail the executive power of the president.
Wisconsin cranberries and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are on the European Union's list of products that could face tariffs in response to Trump's action. Wisconsin is the world's top producer of cranberries.
Walker, during a pair of stops Wednesday at Wisconsin businesses that use imported steel, argued that the tariffs could force them to move production out of the United States to avoid the tariffs.