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Ohio Senators: Trump's Steel Tariffs Should Be More 'Targeted'

Sherrod Brown
Nick Castele

Hours before President Trump is expected to unveil details about his proposed tariff on steel and aluminum imports, Ohio's U.S. Senators are expressing their reservations.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Republican Sen. Rob Portman said the President should narrow the scope of his proposal, which the President has said will involve a 25 percent tariff on all imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Portman argued for a more “surgical” approach, which would rely on tougher enforcement of existing trade laws.

Although an across-the-board tariff would be good for producers of raw steel, Portman said, “it could have a negative impact on our economy, on Ohio workers, because we have a lot of steel processors, a lot of companies that do things with steel.”

Many economists agree, arguing that a broad tariff could have severe consequences for many U.S. companies such as automakers.

“Frankly, I just don't buy into that,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown on Wednesday.

Like Portman, Brown said he would prefer the President take a more “targeted” approach by focusing on China which, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, is responsible for driving down the price of steel by subsidizing its own steel producers and selling the metal below cost. 

Still, Brown predicted that a broad tariff would do more to help the auto industry than harm it.

“I would’ve chosen [a policy] that focuses more on China and less on our allies,” Brown said. However, “if we don't enforce now and draw a line now, we’re going to see the Chinese in auto component manufacturing ... working its way up to auto assembly.”

Trump hasn’t yet said whether his plan would exempt countries like Canada, which is the United State's main source of imported steel. But on Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated that the tariff may include “potential carve-outs” for Canada, Mexico, and other U.S. allies. 

Adrian Ma is a business reporter and recovering law clerk for ideastream in Cleveland. Since making the switch from law to journalism, he's reported on how New York's helicopter tour industry is driving residents nuts, why competition is heating up among Ohio realtors, and the controlled-chaos of economist speed-dating. Previously, he was a producer at WNYC News. His work has also aired on NPR's Planet Money, and Marketplace. In 2017, the Association of Independents in Radio designated him a New Voices Scholar, an award recognizing new talent in public media. Some years ago, he worked in a ramen shop.