On Thursday Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) issued a scathing letter in defense of Washington State, chastising President Trump for the recent tariffs against Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The letter, sent before Trump announced additional tariffs Friday on China, criticized the President for imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on our allies, unilaterally withdrawing from NAFTA without any alternative agreement in place, and trade policies that put Washington uniquely at risk of retaliation.
“Beyond the direct effects of tariffs on steel-and aluminum-consuming industries, our trade partners have identified many other sectors of Washington State’s economy as natural targets for retaliation. I fear our agricultural, construction, and retail industries could be particularly hard hit. Already Canada, Mexico, and the European Union have threatened billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs on Washington State goods like apples, pears, cranberry juice, wood, and steel products.”
The Morning Wire: Keeping you informed on Washington politics, policy, and political economy
Murray also raised concerns about Trump’s justification for the tariffs, pointing out America’s $8.4 billion trade surplus with Canada last year and that far from a national security threat, Canada has traditionally been one of the United States’ closest allies.
“Due to Washington State’s proximity to Canada, our two economies are deeply integrated. What’s more, the people of Washington consider the Canadians our friends, our allies, and our neighbors….”
“I share your interest in expanding American access to foreign markets and increasing international exports. But trade enforcement, Mr. President, should be focused on countries that are involved in unfair trade practices, such as intellectual property theft, workers’ rights abuses, and market-distorting government subsidization. We should seek to build a coalition of our allies to pressure these bad actors. What we should not be doing is targeting our closest allies with punitive tariffs, especially in the name of national security.”
Though Murray’s letter was just released, it was as if Trump had already heard Senator Murray’s message as he announced punishing tariffs against China today that could go into effect as early as Friday. The new tariffs, raise additional concerns about impact of retaliation on Washington State industries as we are the largest state exporter of goods to China, exporting close to $18 billion last year, including wheat, airplanes, apples, pears, and cherries.
On June 13, 2018 Senator Murray along with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would restore tariffs on steel and aluminum to pre-executive order status and, moving forward, would require additional oversight of tariff related executive orders. However, the amendment did not survive Senate negotiations.