Senators Press for Justification Supporting Steel and Aluminum Tariffs - Global Trade Magazine
  May 8th, 2018 | Written by

Senators Press for Justification Supporting Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

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  • Senators Ron Johnson and Claire McCaskill sent Commerce a request for information on the Trump tariffs.
  • Senators request retrospective economic analyses of prior tariffs.

US Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on May 3 reiterating Chairman Johnson’s earlier request for data and information about the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports earlier this year.

The Commerce Department did not fully respond to Johnson’s earlier request, sent March 8, 2018. In the letter sent today, Johnson and McCaskill notified the Commerce Department that the committee may consider a subpoena if the department does not comply in full.

“The American people and American industries deserve to know the consequences of the steel and aluminum tariffs. These tariffs will ripple throughout the entire US economy and affect millions of Americans. If the Department does not produce the entirety of the information requested in Chairman Johnson’s original letter by May 17, 2018, the Committee may be forced to consider the use of compulsory process,” the senators wrote.

The senators posit in the letter that “the basis for all trade discussions” should be “to do no economic harm.” They took exception to Ross’s initial response “the economic impact in the form of higher input costs will be as dramatic as many claim” because he “did not offer statistical justification or data to support” that statement. “Instead,” the senators related, Ross “provided two anecdotal examples about the cost of a can of soup and the cost of a car.

“Clearly, these tariffs will have a much more far-reaching effect on downstream industries and consumer prices than explained in your response,” the senators concluded. “We have heard from a number of Wisconsin- and Missouri-based manufacturers and other US companies in downstream industries that will face collateral damage from the tariffs.  These industries are already facing higher input costs that will ripple throughout the US economy. Domestic producers of soybeans, pistachios, pork, ginseng, and many other products are now also caught up in the escalating trade tensions due to the tariffs.”

The senators also found wanting Ross’s explanation of the connection between steel and aluminum requirements and national security.