Business leaders, lawmakers sound the alarm on Trump’s call for tariffs

Wisconsin business leaders and lawmakers are sounding the alarm about President Trump’s recent call for tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump said last week he plans to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. In a tweet Friday, he said “trade wars are good, easy to win” when the United States is losing “many billions of dollars of trade with virtually every country it does business with.”

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce CEO Kurt Bauer has come out against the plan, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson calls Trump’s announcement “concerning.”

Gov. Scott Walker says the president should reconsider this position on the tariffs, “particularly on ultra-thin aluminum.”

He says “there is not a market in America that can support the demand for ultra-thin aluminum for employers here in Wisconsin and across the country.”

In a tweeted statement, MillerCoors said this action will cause aluminum prices to rise.

“It is likely to lead to job losses across the beer industry… American workers and American consumers will suffer as a result of this misguided tariff.”

In his “Inside Wisconsin” column, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still says a trade war would spell trouble for the state’s major export industries. As he points out, Wisconsin’s biggest export destinations — Canada, China and Mexico — have all been the focus of many of Trump’s trade criticisms.

“Maybe it’s intended to fulfill a campaign promise or simply a negotiating tool, but Trump’s trade war talk is certain to blow up many state economies — Wisconsin’s included,” Still wrote.

“Ironically, American companies who will feel the negative impact of the tariffs can actually move their operations to another country, such as Canada, and not face new tariffs on the sale of their products,” Walker added. “This scenario would lead to the exact opposite outcome of the administration’s stated objective, which is to protect American jobs.”

Still notes Wisconsin’s exports have grown to $22.3 billion in 2017, with $5.4 billion of that coming from industrial machinery. Electrical machinery and medical and scientific instruments each accounted for $2.2 billion in 2017.

“In short, Wisconsin is a target-rich environment in a trade war,” he wrote.

Edge Farmer Dairy Cooperative, which represents the interest of over 800 dairy farmers in the Midwest, says Trump’s plan would likely include “key export markets for dairy and other agricultural products.”

“A trade war with major trading partners will not be good for the U.S. and will likely mean less dairy sales for our dairy farmers,” the group said in a statement. “That would be a tragic loss at the worst possible time as farmers struggle to make ends meet.”

–By Alex Moe