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March 7, 2018

King worried about 'burden' of possible trade war over tariffs

Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, says he's already been contacted by two Maine companies who are worried President Trump's plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum will increase their costs.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is concerned about a possible trade war over President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, citing two Maine companies telling him they are worried it will increase their costs.

The president said last week that he will slap a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum coming into the United States, sparking threats of retaliation from Canada and the European Union.

Speaking to Mainebiz by phone on Tuesday, King said, "I'm hoping that the administration will more narrowly focus [on] what their concerns are rather than burden mostly allies with these tariffs."

King also said he's worried about whether the tariffs will spark retaliation — and to what extent.

"The term 'trade war' is an important term because it can often follow the trajectory of a real war in the sense that one side acts, the other retaliates, the other side then retaliates to the retaliation and it escalates, and before you know it you've unleashed a very destructive force that benefits no one," he said.

The former Maine governor said he had heard from two Maine firms worried about the impact of a steel tariff, including one that had seen an 8% jump in the price of raw steel in a week.

The other, based in Fort Fairfield near the Canadian border, expressed concern about its ability to get steel from Canada, which is cheaper than having it shipped to Aroostook County from Pittsburgh.

Asked whether there's anything lawmakers can do to curb the president's power to impose trade measures, King said it's conceivable but noted that it would take an act of Congress to change the law.

"I think the president should have the authority to act in legitimate cases of national security," he said, noting that in this case he thinks that test has not been met.

"This is an area where you should operate with a scalpel, not a chainsaw," he added.

King said he told the Maine companies he would pass on their concerns "and hope that we can prevail upon the administration to more carefully calibrate what they're trying to achieve."

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