State leaders and local figures oppose new tariffs

Brandon Paykamian • Jun 8, 2018 at 7:18 PM

Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership CEO Mitch Miller believes new federal tariffs imposed on products from Mexico, Canada, China and the European Union could affect some local companies.

“There most definitely are consequences that come with change on that,” he said. “I can think of one industry that would be impacted and that’s ALO (Industries) out in the (Washington County) Industrial Park. They make farming equipment, and they import all their steel in for their products.”

Miller also said he believes the tariffs’ potential to ignite a trade war could mean higher prices for consumers after importers raise commodity prices in retaliation and impose tariffs against U.S. exports.

In Thursday’s Senate session, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., again tried to persuade President Donald Trump not to go ahead with imposing steel and aluminum tariffs.

When Alexander met Trump in Nashville last week, the senator said he told the president “our state is likely to be hurt more than any other state because, in many ways, we're the number one auto state.”

“What I would suggest, respectfully, to the president is to shift focus from tariffs to reciprocity. In other words, say to every country, ‘Please do for us what we do for you,’” Alexander said Thursday when he spoke on the Senate floor.

“That would be consistent with all the other accomplishments that have happened in the last 18 months. That would be consistent with the lower taxes and the fewer regulations and the other actions that have increased the best economy in the last 18 years,” the senator continued. “And it's my hope that I can become more persuasive on that.” 

Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said he would like to “take steps to address the damage done to our country through the unfair trade practices of countries like China,” but would like to see solutions that “minimize the damage that could be done to American workers, businesses and consumers.”

“I was concerned when President Trump announced his intention to impose across-the-board tariffs on steel and aluminum. Using this broad approach to impose tariffs, I believe there could be negative impacts to many domestic manufacturers, including those in Tennessee,” Roe said in an emailed statement to the Johnson City Press Friday. 

Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker also expressed similar concerns about new tariffs late last month, joining state Democrats like former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Senate. 

“They will drive up prices, hurt our economy and will cost jobs, especially in our important automotive sector. The retaliatory tariffs that are promised to follow will hurt our exports, damaging farmers and even hitting iconic Tennessee businesses like Jack Daniel’s,” Bredesen said in a Wednesday statement.


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