Wisconsin Senator, Ron Johnson, has made his mark as a highly-principled free market Conservative. He has emerged as a leader among those GOP voices deeply concerned about Trump’s proposed trade policies, and tariff plans.
With the resignation of Trump’s top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, as a strident voice for free trade, Johnson has taken up the mantle. Johnson explained, “It’s just not a good thing to be threatening trade wars. If this is a grand strategy in terms of a tough negotiating stance, I hope the negotiation succeeds. It’s just, from my standpoint, a pretty risky strategy if that’s what this is all about.”
In what is seen as a partial concession to voices like Johnson’s, the White House announced that the U.S. allies Canada and Mexico could receive tariff exemptions on aluminum and steel imports, as per Trump’s new plan to impose steep tariffs.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday, “We expect that the president will sign something by the end of the week and there are potential carveouts for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well.”
Nearly 100 House lawmakers, along with powerful Ways and Means chairman, Kevin Brady (R-Texas) have also formally joined Johnson to urge extreme caution. The letter states, “Because tariffs are taxes that make U.S. businesses less competitive and U.S. consumers poorer, any tariffs that are imposed should be designed to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses and consumers.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) who previously served as U.S. Trade Representative under George W. Bush and currently is a leading trade expert in Congress said, “I’ve talked to administration officials a lot in the last few weeks, including this morning and last night, trying to encourage them to, in my view, take a more targeted approach that would be better for the people they’re trying to protect.”
However, other senior senators including Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) are skeptical about Trump’s economic policy as it may lead to retaliation against U.S. exports.
“The concern is a lot of time that when it comes to retaliation they go after ag first,” he said. “The effort right now is to talk to the administration and find out what they’re going to do.”