Politics

Brown Urges Tariffs Be Used as Tool, Not Policy

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Tuesday he supports tariffs as a tool against countries that cheat at trade, but urged President Donald Trump to work with U.S. allies to present a “united front” against those countries.

Brown, D-Ohio, discussed tariffs with reporters at Vallourec Star following a plant tour and meetings with workers. The senator’s visit follows his blocking of an amendment by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would have ended Trump’s steel tariffs against China.

“Tariffs are not a long-term policy,” Brown said. “They’re a tool that we use when countries cheat.”

During a phone conversation with Trump over the weekend, Brown emphasized that he supported tariffs focused on “serial cheaters” like China, South Korea and Turkey.

“They subsidize their energy, their water, their land, their capital,” Brown said. “They often in China are state-owned enterprises, so those companies that cheat get these public dollars in those countries, making it impossible to compete.”

“The importance for Vallourec and other steel companies in the United States is that these tariffs be used right, they be used directly aimed at those people in those countries that are cheating,” he continued.

Vallourec Star President Judson Wallace, who accompanied Brown on the tour, agreed tariffs aren’t a “one size fits all” solution and acknowledged tariffs “both help and hurt” the mill.

“We’re on both sides of that issue,” Wallace said. “We sell most of the pipe we manufacture here in the United States but there’s some things that we don’t manufacture that we don’t have the capacity. For that, we have to import from other sister companies from around the world.”

During the tour, Brown reported, employees expressed frustration that companies are shutting down production in the United States and moving and expanding overseas. “Nothing seems to have changed with this president from what was happening before,” he said.

Trump needs to work with countries that haven’t cheated and ensure tariffs are directed the way they should be, Brown said, and to present a “united front” with Canada and western Europe against countries that don’t trade fairly.

“You need to inform your allies what you’re doing,” he continued. “I’m not sure that’s what happened here, but the president needs to recalibrate in a way so we’re not seeing jobs gained in the steel industry here and jobs lost somewhere else.”

Brown also called for allowances for companies that can’t domestically obtain certain products they need so they aren’t harmed.

“It’s obviously very complicated, but the president went into it thinking it was a bit simpler than it is,” he said. “He needs to listen to these industries and he needs to listen to these industries and listen to our allies to make sure it works for everybody.”

During their conversation, Trump also asked Brown about filling the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court, the senator reported. In response, Brown suggested that selecting Merrick Garland – a Supreme Court nominee by former President Barack Obama that Senate leaders refused a confirmation hearing for – could “heal” and “unify” the country.

After a silent pause, Trump responded that he had heard that suggestion before, Brown said.

In addition, Brown dismissed calls by liberal activists, including some Democrats, that the Immigration and Customs Service – also known as ICE – should be abolished. The agency has come under fire regarding implementation of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy regarding individuals attempting to cross into the country illegally. The policy has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the border.

“It’s the presidential candidates that are saying get rid of ICE. I don’t take that seriously,” he said. “We need reform of ICE.”

Pictured: Vallourec Vice President of Industry Affairs Douglas Polk talks with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown following a tour of the Vallourec Star plant in Youngstown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.