Trade Alliances and Tariffs

Ag Groups Join Trade Alliance as White House Economic Adviser Resigns

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
President Donald Trump last week announced plans to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. (Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Several agriculture groups have joined the Alliance for Competitive Steel and Aluminum Trade -- a National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) coalition of groups "deeply concerned" about the effects of the proposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum that President Donald Trump announced last week and the potential for foreign retaliation against the president's action.

"Our alliance represents some of the most competitive industries in the U.S. economy, and we are deeply concerned about the effects that these tariffs will have on industries and companies that use steel and aluminum," said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "We are also concerned about the retaliation against America's most competitive exporters. This 'double whammy' of higher prices to our domestic producers and retaliation against our exporters will endanger tens of thousands of quality American jobs."

The NFTC released a policy paper with a list of all members of the coalition. Ag and food groups that joined the coalition include the American Soybean Association, the Beer Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Midwest Food Processors Association, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Pork Producers Council, the Pet Food Institute and U.S. Wheat Associates.

The alliance released a white paper detailing the negative impacts of the tariffs: http://www.nftc.org/….

Meanwhile, at least one livestock group is praising President Trump's approach. The board of directors for R-CALFUSA wants the president to impose new tariffs on cattle, beef, sheep and lamb imports "from countries that maintain substantial trade surpluses with the United States."

Bryan Hanson, R-CALF's board president, said such action is needed to preserve national food-security interests that are threatened by low-priced imports. He compared it to the situation in the steel industry.

"The growing tide of underpriced imports is displacing domestic cattle and sheep production, and new tariffs are needed to offset the artificial price advantage that foreign countries gain through currency manipulation, cutting food safety corners, hidden subsidies, and lax environmental standards," Hanson said.

Just before multiple media reports that White House economic adviser Gary Cohn is leaving his job, President Trump defended his plans for tariffs on steel and aluminum and said he likes conflict among his advisers.

Cohn has headed the White House Economic Council and was on the losing end of the battle within the administration over whether to impose the worldwide tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum that Trump has announced.

The Washington Post reported late Tuesday how Cohn and other free-trade supporters in the administration had lost ground in recent weeks with the president as Trump began listening more to White House aide Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (https://goo.gl/…)

"We've been mistreated as a country for many years, and it's just not going to happen anymore," Trump said at a news conference Tuesday with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. "When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad."

Cohn's absence is likely to make attempts to stop Trump from imposing the tariffs or giving countries exceptions more difficult.

Cohn said he had been pleased to work on "pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform," The New York Times reported.

Trump said in a statement to the Times, "Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again. He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people."

Trump also disputed claims that the White House is having a hard time attracting top talent.

"Everybody wants to work in the White House," Trump said. "They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their resume; it's just a great place to work."

In a tweet early Wednesday morning, the president also highlighted manufacturing losses going back to 1990 and argued that trade deficits were cumulative.

"From Bush 1 to present, our Country has lost more than 55,000 factories, 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs and accumulated Trade Deficits of more than 12 Trillion Dollars. Last year we had a Trade Deficit of almost 800 Billion Dollars. Bad Policies & Leadership. Must WIN again! #MAGA," the president tweeted.

Editor's note: DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

(CC/AG)

Jerry Hagstrom