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NM delegation wary of Trump’s tariff hikes

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with steel and aluminum executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Washington. Trump’s announcement that he will impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has upended political alliances on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

New Mexico’s congressional delegation is worried about President Donald Trump’s decision to hike tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Members of both parties warned of a trade war as a result of his action, which includes exemptions for Canada and Mexico. Steel imports would see a 25% higher tariff while aluminum tariffs would be 10 percent higher.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the tariffs might not have a major direct impact in New Mexico but they were not well-conceived.

“Although these tariffs may have limited direct impact in New Mexico, the process — the uncertainty and rhetoric leading up to today — is a clear example of the dysfunction in the White House,” Udall said.

“While the tariffs President Trump plans do not appear to apply to Mexico and Canada for now, the threat is real. Border trade empowers New Mexico’s economy, and any change of our relationship with Mexico — because of tariffs or the renegotiation of NAFTA — must protect the thousands of working New Mexicans whose livelihoods depend on stable trade relations with Mexico.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich, ranking Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, agreed.

“Tariffs can be an appropriate punitive tool when people are cheating the system, however, I’m not sure the administration has thought this through,” he said. “They seem to be taking a sledge hammer to a problem that needs a more surgical approach.”

Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat running for governor of New Mexico, called the tariff hike “short-sighted” and could result in economic pain for New Mexico farmers.

“The President has an obligation to uphold fair trade policies, but threatening trade wars against our allies is dangerous, short-sighted, and will make it harder for U.S. businesses to compete abroad,” she said. “Retaliatory actions would especially harm agricultural businesses in New Mexico and will only increase costs on consumers.”

Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican also running for governor, said he’d try to ensure the tariffs don’t hurt the state.

“The biggest priority as a Congressman representing New Mexico is ensuring our local businesses are not adversely impacted by what the finalized package of tariffs includes and how it is applied,” Pearce said. “Although there is a need to ensure American competitiveness against countries that have in the past taken advantage of our trade relationships, I will not support putting our businesses at a disadvantage and raising prices on our consumers. Rest assured, as the administration works to move forward their tariff package, I will be a vocal advocate for actions that benefit New Mexico businesses.”

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., called the rollout of the tariffs “confusing.”

“I believe that we must do more to keep jobs here in the United States,” Lujan said. “This includes steel and aluminum manufacturing jobs which have been battered by China’s unfair trade practices for years. While the confusing manner in which the President made this decision has done little to reassure American workers or calm international tensions, I believe that we must protect the livelihoods of domestic steel and aluminum workers. These jobs and the steel and aluminum they produce are critical to our economy – especially airplane and ship building, along with the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”

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