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Lankford seeking stability on trade

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Sen. James Lankford
Sen. James Lankford

In answer to a question, Sen. James Lankford showed his usual restraint regarding President Trump’s approach to trade: “The method is unusual, to say the least.”

It’s a method that has seen the United States slap large tariffs not just on places like China, which has high tariffs on U.S. products and has been pilfering our intellectual property for years, but also on longtime allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The first two in that trio are party to an agreement that is to take the place of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yet since last year, the two countries also have been subject to U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on their steel and 10 percent on their aluminum, which the administration imposed citing the dubious grounds of “national security” authorized under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

U.S. companies impacted by the tariffs saw them initially as short-term headaches, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, told The Oklahoman during a recent visit, “but now it’s gone on for a long time.”

“The 232 issue on steel and aluminum is pretty unexplainable to Canada and Mexico, how they’re a security threat,” he said.

Trump contends the United States needs robust steel production at home, to ease the need for help elsewhere if we face a conflict. However, Lankford notes that most of the steel needed for national defense is made in America, so that’s a tough argument. I’ve said that publicly to him (Trump) and I’ve said that privately to him.”

The 232 tariffs are a major obstacle to completing the revamped NAFTA deal, Lankford says. “That has to drop before it all gets finalized, and we’re encouraging him to do that.”

By “we’re” Lankford means a group of Republican senators who have been meeting with White House officials to discuss trade. Lankford is among those who would like to see the United States look to strike new deals with countries such as Japan, which places a 38.5 percent tariff on imported beef.

He also wants a better approach with China. Late fall, the administration placed 10 tariffs on $200 billion worth of products in what was the third round of its trade war with that country. Those tariffs could increase to 25 percent.

Those impact consumers and companies. Lankford noted Oklahoma is home to companies that engineer and design consumer electronics products here, but have them made in China. “They’re paying the full tariff … for those companies, it’s pretty significant for them to be able to deal with the tariffs.”

The senator said Trump, who more than once has commented on how much he “loves” tariffs, has also told him his goal is low tariffs or no tariffs. That would be ideal, of course. But in the meantime, keep the TUMS handy. If history is any guide, more upheaval is likely.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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