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Trib editorial: Government shouldn't be picking winners or losers with tariffs

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 10:03 a.m.
Fred Slezak at his 400-acre farm in New Alexandria, where he works producing corn and soybeans.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Fred Slezak at his 400-acre farm in New Alexandria, where he works producing corn and soybeans.

The economic consequences of President Trump's proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum hit close to home for the region's farmers, who more than likely would become casualties in any trade war.

The chairman of the European Parliament's international trade committee said as much in response to Mr. Trump's plan to impose a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum. The European Union would respond with its own tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports, according to Bernd Lange.

That would affect an estimated $2.2 billion in Pennsylvania agricultural exports — 60 percent of which go to foreign countries that produce aluminum and 17 percent to countries that produce steel, according to a Trib report. Despite overly optimistic administration claims that a rebounding economy will make up for any losses, the economic commentariat is not convinced— especially its conservative quarter.

“President Trump's historic tax-reform success does not deserve to be squandered in a trade war,” said FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon. And for every steel job saved by a tariff on imports, the U.S. will sacrifice jobs in auto plants, construction and other industries, according to David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.

Farmers face enough challenges without government ham-handedly attempting to influence markets. And, we remind, it was candidate Trump who made it clear on the stump in 2016 that government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers — by using tariffs or other market-perverting measures.

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