Walorski Presses Top Trade Negotiator on Response to Tariff Retaliation Threats
Urges USTR Lighthizer to Consider Impact on Farmers, Manufacturers, Small Businesses
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today pressed U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer on the administration’s response to threats of retaliatory tariffs that could harm American farmers, manufacturers, and other small businesses.
“There’s an incredible amount of anxiety in my district over the threat of retaliation,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “That anxiety is shared regardless of industry because manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, and workers will be affected. Are you considering the devastating effect that retaliatory measures could have, especially on small business and family farms that absolutely do not have the resources to absorb big losses?”
Ambassador Lighthizer testified before the full Ways and Means Committee about President Trump’s trade policies, including the tariffs on steel and aluminum set to take effect Friday. Several countries and the European Union have threatened retaliatory tariffs on American exports, including agricultural products and manufactured goods produced in Indiana.
Congresswoman Walorski recently sent a letter to President Trump expressing concerns with his tariff proposal and sharing feedback from local manufacturers. She also signed a letter, along with 106 of her House Republican colleagues, urging the president to target unfair trade practices while protecting American jobs, manufacturers, and consumers.
Video of Walorski questioning Lighthizer at today’s hearing is available here. A transcript of their exchange is below.
REP. WALORSKI: I want to talk about 232. Just a couple of point of clarifications. It is my understanding, and I just want you to confirm this, that you are considering participating in the Global Forum on Excess Steel Capacity, that is under consideration?
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: We do participate, and one of the things we’ve asked people who might get an exclusion is if they participate and help us with that. And most of these countries do, by the way.
REP. WALORSKI: The recent Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity held a first minister-level meeting last November, but you were not there, correct?
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: That’s correct. I had no deputies in place at that time, so I was staying here.
REP. WALORSKI: I understand. Will you, in the future, attend those yourself since the rest of the world is looking at this with incredible significance and bringing their ministerial level folks to the table?
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: Well I wouldn’t guarantee it. I would say I think at that meeting I think there were maybe three ministers. So it might have been a ministerial level, but I think about 30 countries did not send ministers and about three did.
REP. WALORSKI: But the one that I’m concerned about is you and this country.
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: Well I understand, but I just want to suggest, the idea was that it was ministerial level. So you had Europe sent one, because it was basically around the corner. You had the German minister, who doesn’t have competence in the area but it was good to be there. And I think there may have been one or two others.
REP. WALORSKI: But the reason I’m asking the question, Ambassador, is while all of those countries have irons in the fire here, you are the ambassador that’s going to go forth under all these rules in 232, and I want you to do as best as you can for our nation and for my district, and that’s my concern. And I believe that you can and I believe that you will.
I want to switch gears, though, really quickly to this issue of retaliation. In my district in northern Indiana with the second largest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the country, there’s a whole host of ag that I’m concerned about: corn, soybeans, dairy, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, tomatoes, and the list goes on.
But half of the soybeans grown in Indiana are exported to China. Honeywell makes brakes and avionics in South Bend that go into Boeing planes. China is threatening retaliation against both. In fact, today, China’s state-run Global Times ran an article alleging that the U.S. is dumping soybeans into China and calling for strong restrictive measures. Corn and motorboats are exported from my district to the EU. Both of those are on the EU’s retaliation list.
Setting aside the tariffs, there’s an incredible amount of anxiety in my district over the threat of retaliation. That anxiety is shared regardless of industry because manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, and workers will be affected. Are you considering the devastating effect that retaliatory measures could have, especially on small business and family farms that absolutely do not have the resources to absorb big losses?
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: Yes.
REP. WALORSKI: In what way?
AMB. LIGHTHIZER: We are gaming out what would happen, what the most likely areas are that you would retaliation, what kinds of things that you would do. We can’t be in a position where we take no action because of threats of retaliation. That’s how you end up having an $800 billion trade deficit, which costs literally millions and millions of jobs in America.
But there is a legitimate threat and, as I’ve said a few times today and many times in the past, agriculture is always on the front line of retaliation. I said that when I first testified. Members would say to me: do you think we should be concerned? I said if you’re in agriculture, you always have to be concerned. Anything that happens it’s going to have, they’re going to figure we can do something on agriculture.
So it’s an unfair situation, but it’s one we have to come to grips with. And you have to think about counter-retaliation, you have to think about programs for farmers who are in this situation. There’s a lot of things that are outside of my realm that have to be considered. But it’s a serious problem and we are very aware of it.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.