VIDEO - “President Trump has launched a trade war without a strategy, and these Trump tariffs are imposing consumer taxes.”
Sen. Chris Coons: “I’m hearing from folks in Delaware, from port workers at the docks… I’m hearing from soybean farmers in the southern part of my state that they’re facing the lowest price for their crops in a decade."
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Manisha Singh, in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the consequences of the Trump administration’s tariffs on U.S. foreign policy.
Madam Assistant Secretary, you have launched a war. President Trump has launched a trade war without a strategy, and these Trump tariffs are imposing consumer taxes.
I’m hearing from folks in Delaware, from port workers at the docks who are concerned that shiploads of steel that come to my state in the wintertime, from Sweden and from Finland, will not be coming, that the costs will be raised, that their jobs will be harmed.
I’m hearing from soybean farmers in the southern part of my state that they’re facing the lowest price for their crops in a decade. Folks are confused, they are anxious, and they have a concern. And you’ve just heard it from us on a bipartisan basis: that President Trump has launched a trade war without a strategy and without a plan for how to get through this.
I hope you will take back the message that while the president may be acting within his statutory authority he is acting recklessly, he is acting dangerously, in a way that is dividing us from our allies, and that is imposing consumer taxes on the folks in our country who we must wanted to help. If we don’t see a strategy that lines up, I think Congress will act to restrain his reckless use of this authority.
In your prepared remarks, which you [have just] repeated, you said, “Allies and partners share our frustration in responding to the challenge of China’s economic aggression. We are building an international coalition to address China’s state-led policies which distort markets, discriminate against international competition, force technology transfer, and permit theft of sensitive intellectual property.”
Madam Assistant Secretary, if that’s what you were doing, I’d be cheering. I’d be saying ‘what a terrific plan.’
I only wish this were true, but it’s not. In a trip that I just took with the chairman we visited four of our vital allies in northern Europe. That included Sweden. And in our meetings with national leaders in those four countries, countries that are fighting alongside us in Afghanistan, they are puzzled, they are offended, and they are distanced from us by these tariffs. Swedish steel that should be being imported to Wilmington, Delaware may soon be turned away by tariffs that are dividing us from a country that should be an ally in an appropriate trade contest with China.
I just had a meeting yesterday with Senator Isakson, my good friend from Georgia, where we met with the trade minister of South Africa, a country that has finally opened their markets to our poultry, after years of effort that we undertook. And it’s clear they’re going to slap reciprocal tariffs on us that will harm the poultry farmers of Eastern Shore Maryland, Eastern Shore Virginia, southern Delaware.
This is a trade war with real consequences but without a strategy. And frankly, I couldn’t agree more with the point that Republican Senator Young just made; the Section 232 authority has in the past been used against the real enemies of the United States, against Libya and Iran, not against Canada, Germany, Sweden, South Africa.
So, Madam Assistant Secretary, with all due respect, the administration should be on notice that 88 senators yesterday voted to send a strong and clear signal to President Trump that he is misusing his Section 232 authority.
And that if you believe what you are accomplishing with these tariffs is supporting our national security, in recent meetings, with ministers of foreign affairs, from Sweden to South Africa to Canada, you are in fact harming our national security. If you believe we are going to negotiate better trade deals by picking fights with all of our best allies, that is not in fact the case.
And if you think the outcome will be a reformed WTO, I think instead it will be chaos. I wish the articulated strategy you delivered in your prepared statement was in fact what was happening, but I see the exact opposite. Please, Madam Secretary, in a minute or two, if you could give us some reassurance that President Trump sees as clearly as you do that our goal should be to unite our allies against China’s mercantilist policy, and is not in fact what I see happening, which is a wildly swung bat that is hitting our closest allies that harms our national security, harms our chances at better trade deals, and harms folks in my home state who work at our port and work in our farms.
Well thank you, Senator. I can tell you, President Trump is committed to working with our allies. Secretary Pompeo, under the leadership of President Trump, as you know, has been travelling the world, seeking support from our allies in order to achieve our goal of a complete, irreversible, verifiable, denuclearized North Korea.
We, at all levels of the State Department, are discussing all of these issues of shared interest with our allies, including the China threat. I’ve had many personal conversations in the Western Hemisphere and South America, in the European Union, in North Asia, all over the world. Everyone agrees that China is a big threat. We are working to combat that threat.
Turning back to the 232 issue, I would disagree with you, Senator, that a weakened national economy, weakened steel and aluminum industries, they are a national security threat. I understand Senator Young’s point about 232 being used against Iran, who clearly -- which is still a problem. You know, Iran is still an issue that we need to deal with, but at the end of the day, 232 is designed to also protect our domestic economic production.
It’s laid our clearly in the statute. President Trump is acting within his statutory authority, there is a strategy, I laid out for you the five pillars of our economic strategy. As you’ve indicated, in my opening statement I’ve laid out for you the State Department’s role and the strategy in President Trump’s agenda. The president is committed --
Thank you, Ms. Singh, I’m out of time and I appreciate your response, but Ms. Singh, as assistant secretary, I hope you will take back the message that while the president may be acting within his statutory authority he is acting recklessly, he is acting dangerously, in a way that is dividing us from our allies, and that is imposing consumer taxes on the folks in our country who we must wanted to help. If we don’t see a strategy that lines up, I think Congress will act to restrain his reckless use of this authority.