Hultgren, Roskam break with Trump on tariffs

  • Peter Roskam

    Peter Roskam

  • Randy Hultgren

    Randy Hultgren

Updated 6/5/2018 5:47 PM

Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren and Peter Roskam are breaking ranks with President Donald Trump on the imposition of tariffs on Mexico, Canada and the European Union, saying their constituents could become collateral damage.

"There's real concern about what an escalating trade war would mean," Hultgren, of Plano, said Tuesday after a week in the 14th District where he talked with manufacturers and farmers. "I've seen a lot of fear."


Canada's prime minister already plans retaliatory tariffs and European Union leaders have called Trump's move illegal.

The president has responded to critics by tweeting, "When you're almost $800 billion a year down on trade, you can't lose a trade war ... the U.S. has been ripped off by other countries for years on trade, time to get smart!"

The "administration's inclination to impose tariffs without regard to the negative impact on U.S. manufacturers or consumers needs to be addressed," Roskam said Tuesday.

Tariffs will raise steel prices overall and increase costs for construction, particularly with bridge projects, The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has projected. Since the issue surfaced in spring, costs of steel mill products ticked up by 3 percent between March and April, according to the AASHTO Journal.

Hultgren described touring a Batavia factory, DS Containers, that makes 4 million aerosol cans a day. "It's a proprietary way of making steel cans with a special coating," he said. That specific type of steel is only produced in Japan and the European Union and falls under the new tariffs.

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The owners "need to know if some exclusions will happen ... otherwise they have to figure out what to do," Hultgren said.

The Trump administration countered that tariffs "have already had major, positive effects on steel and aluminum workers and jobs, and will continue to do so long into the future."

Leaders with the Joliet-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 have said that increased domestic production was likely to support 660 existing jobs in steel mills and create new ones.

Some Senate Republicans are floating legislation to require congressional approval before enacting tariffs but it's unclear if the votes are there to pass it.

"I'm supportive of efforts that will ensure that manufacturers, employers and consumers in the Sixth District are not inadvertently punished by these tariffs," Roskam said.

Another source of concern is how the U.S. was treating longtime allies like Canada and Europe, both congressmen said.

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