Ryan supports steel tariffs

WARREN — Democrat U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan said he supports the Republican president’s push to impose new, tough tariffs if it prevents the dumping of foreign steel in the United States.

Ryan also said he does not believe the move would have a significant impact on the domestic companies and customers that buy steel and products made from steel.

“China has been cheating and dumping steel into the markets below cost for years,” said Ryan, of Howland. “They’ve been running these games against the United States for a long time. It’s a part of their bigger strategy to undermine the defense industrial base.”

President Donald Trump’s declaration to impose punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will likely raise steel and aluminum prices here. That’s good for U.S. manufacturers. But it’s bad for companies that use the metals, and it prompted red flags from industries ranging from tool and die makers to beer distributors to manufacturers of air conditioners.

The American International Automobile Dealers Association warned it would drive up prices “substantially.”

But Ryan said he does not believe the tariffs will have a “huge impact on the market,” though, he said, “it’s yet to be seen. We can’t jump to conclusions.”

Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, and Rob Portman, R-OH, also expressed support for tariffs on foreign steel.

Brown, Portman and Ryan have long lamented the effect of Chinese steel on Ohio manufacturing jobs.

So has Trump, who this week summoned steel and aluminum executives to the White House and declared he would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs, he said, would remain for “a long period of time,” but it was not immediately clear if certain trading partners would be exempt.

Ryan said the issue “transcends” differing political parties and the president “took the right tone,” looking out for businesses and workers in the steel industry.

“We are doing something absolutely within our right. What they are doing — dumping the steel — is illegal,” Ryan said.

However, Ryan said the president’s announcement came with few details and lacked clarity.

“I hope the president clarifies. In my opinion Canada, Germany and the European Union are not harming us in their trade deals and they shouldn’t be included. But there is no reason for us to sit by while other countries cheat,” Ryan said.

Trump met with more than a dozen executives, including representatives from U.S. Steel Corp., ArcelorMittal, Nucor, JW Aluminum and Century Aluminum. The industry leaders urged Trump to act, saying they had been unfairly hurt by a glut of imports.

“We are not protectionist. We want a level playing field,” said Dave Burritt, president and chief executive officer at U.S. Steel.

Many have come out against the idea of steep tariffs.

Steel-consuming companies said steel tariffs imposed in 2002 by President George W. Bush ended up wiping out 200,000 U.S. jobs.

Ryan said he would support the tariffs against China, but not other allied countries that haven’t been dumping steel into the U.S. market.

Trump hasn’t clarified what countries would be impacted and the president of the EU’s executive body, Jean-Claude Juncker, said Trump’s statements have been unreasonable.

Asked if a trade war is brewing, Juncker said, “I can’t see how this isn’t part of war-like behavior.”

Early Friday, Trump took to Twitter to defend himself: “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”

He later tweeted: “Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in response, “Make no mistake: If the president goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does.”

Markets tumbled in Asia, where China had already expressed a “grave concern” about U.S. trade policy. And the European Union promised retaliation against American exports if Trump follows through. In the United States, the S&P 500 dropped as much as 1.1 percent before paring its decline.

Ryan said gaps in the administration’s diplomatic team are a factor in the confusion with allies.

In a memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis raised concerns saying U.S. military requirements for steel and aluminum represent about 3 percent of U.S. production and that the department was “concerned about the negative impact on our key allies” of any tariffs. He added that targeted tariffs would be preferable to global quotas or tariffs.

Ryan said the tariffs will strengthen the country’s ability to supply the military.