Almost as soon as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s town hall in Smyrna began, he got a question from a Home Depot employee about President Donald Trump’s plan for stiff new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Asked Thursday whether he thought the tariffs would boost the nation’s economy, Ryan repeated his concern that the White House should take a more precise approach so that the tariff order wouldn’t ignite a calamitous trade war.
The Wisconsin Republican said he was “working on” trying to convince Trump to soften the tariffs, and said he backed other methods to target unfair trade practices that the president has owed to end.
“The best policy is to be surgical and specific and go after those specific unfair trade practices,” said Ryan. “I’m not a fan of broad-based across-the-board tariffs, because you’ll have a lot of unintended consequences.”
Ryan has said he’s “extremely worried” about Trump’s plan to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on foreign aluminum. The president cast it as a way to boost U.S. manufacturers he claims are being punished by foreign competitors.
“It’s an assault on our country. It’s an assault,” Trump said, shortly after signing the tariff order. “We’ve been treated very badly by other countries over the years,” he added.
All 10 members of Georgia’s GOP House delegation – many of whom accompanied Ryan to the town hall event - signed a letter to Trump expressing “deep concern” over broad tariffs. And U.S. Sen. David Perdue, one of Trump’s top allies, has urged him to change course.
Trump said Thursday he would exempt Canada and Mexico for now from the new tariffs, and said he would be “very flexible” with an order that gives him authority to exclude other countries and raise or lower levies.
Ryan told reporters those moves to limit the tariffs was a step in the right direction, and said he was unlikely to push the U.S. House to challenge Trump’s order.
“The more surgical we get, the better,” he said, adding: “We want to work with the administration to make this as surgical and targeted as possible.”
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