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Walker Says He Was Surprised By Trump Tariff Proposal

Walker Stopping At Businesses In Janesville, Oshkosh To Discuss Tariffs

Scott Walker
Isaac Brekken/AP Photo

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he was surprised when President Donald Trump announced plans to impose new tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, saying up until last week he thought “we were in a good place.”

Walker on Tuesday urged Trump to back off on the tariffs, visiting a plastics manufacturer and food distributor the governor says would be hurt under Trump’s plan.

Walker said he had been talking with Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross since last summer about how tariffs would hurt Wisconsin. Walker said he is scheduled to talk again with Ross on Wednesday, and possibly also Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

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Walker said if Trump won’t back off the tariffs in total, he hopes the president will make an exception for tinplate steel and ultra-thin aluminum. Those are used by Bemis Industrial Products and Seneca Foods, the two businesses he visited Tuesday in Oshkosh and Janesville.

Seneca Foods is a food processor and distributor with nine plants in the state.

The Janesville location is in the congressional district of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has joined with other congressional Republicans in saying the tariffs could lead to a trade war.

Walker has been outspoken against Trump’s idea, saying it would likely raise steel and aluminum prices in the United States and hurt Wisconsin manufacturers.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is also against the tariffs, as is Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is withholding judgment for now on Trump’s proposed tariffs.

Liberal Democrats and unions have praised the move.

Baldwin said Tuesday she wants to see all the details of the administration’s plan first. Baldwin said she supports sending a “strong message to bad actors” like Russia and China, but she also fears a blanket tariff could start a trade war with allies like Canada and hurt Wisconsin manufacturers and the state’s agricultural economy.

Baldwin’s two Republican challengers didn’t take firm positions on Trump’s plan.

Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir’s campaign manager said Vukmir applauds Trump fighting for better trade deals. And a spokesman for Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson said Nicholson supports renegotiating trade deals to benefit the U.S.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 2:52 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, 2018, with additional comments from Walker.

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