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Sen. Rob Portman Breaks With Trump On Canadian Tariffs

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
John Minchillo
Associated Press

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was the U.S. trade representative for the George W. Bush administration, is expressing concern over the steel and aluminum tariffs President Trump plans to impose on Canada

Portman says he supports tariffs targeted by country and industry that, for example, address the dumping of Chinese steel at below-market prices. But he does not think Canada should be among those targets.

The Republican notes Canada is the U.S.’s largest trading partner and predicts American consumers will feel the impact of the tariffs beyond just increases in the cost of products made from steel.

“If you start a trade war, it escalates,” Portman says. “So we’ll put some tariffs on them they’ll put some tariffs on us. And you have not just more expensive steel, but you have jobs in the United States that are threatened because there’s no longer the market out there for our products that we’re exporting.”

Portman says Canada does have some protectionist policies, including those that hurt U.S. dairy exports, which he’d like to see addressed in NAFTA negotiations.

Portman’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Sherrod Brown, has thus far supported broad tariffs against China, but has expressed concerns about the policy applying to America’s allies.

Meanwhile, other Senate Republicans are pushing legislation that would limit Trump’s ability to impose tariffs.