In a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) cautioned against imposing steel and aluminum tariffs, arguing that doing so would hurt American consumers.
“History has demonstrated repeatedly that consumers — American families and taxpayers — ultimately bear the burden of tariffs on these kinds of imports,” Hatch said. Hatch’s letter came amid congressional Republicans’ and others’ concerns about Trump’s decision to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Hatch, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, warned that Trump could further burden American consumers and therefore stunt the benefits conferred by his massive tax reform package:
All told, tens of billions of dollars in private domestic investment have been announced. Ultimately, these developments mean bigger paychecks, greater security, and, of course, more jobs for the American people, and we are not even through the first quarter of 2018.
Put simply, the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports threaten to undermine that success. Raising taxes on steel and aluminum importers will increase production costs for American manufacturers and raise prices on American consumers that rely on steel and aluminum products.
But Trump has continually defended tariffs as a way to protect the American economy. “To protect our Country we must protect American Steel!” Trump tweeted Monday. During a press conference on Tuesday, Trump similarly defended his decision as a way to protect American workers.
“The European Union has not treated us well,” Trump said of the supranational organization that reportedly already considered retaliatory measures.
“And it’s been a very, very unfair trade situation,” he added. “I’m here to protect, and one of the reasons I was elected is I’m protecting our workers, I’m protecting our companies.”
Critics are worried that Trump’s tariffs would provoke retaliatory measures and prompt a trade war, something Trump publicly welcomed. But other Republicans, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), thought Trump’s tariffs went too far.
During an interview on Tuesday, Paul told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer that the United States would “lose” in a trade war.
Both Hatch and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to acknowledge Trump’s interest in defending the United States against countries engaging in unfair practices but thought Trump’s tariffs were the wrong way to address that issue.
“[T]he proposed tariffs would miss those countries whose unfair trade practices have caused global overcapacities in steel and aluminum and would hit American businesses and families instead,” Hatch said.
Before Trump’s press conference, Ryan said on Capitol Hill that while he wanted to fix abuses, like dumping steel and aluminum, he favored a “surgical approach” that targeted that specific problem.
Watch Trump speak on trade above, via CNN.