Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday he’s had multiple conversations with President Donald Trump in which he has urged the president to take “a more surgical approach” to instituting tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
“There is clearly abuse occurring; clearly there is overcapacity, dumping and transshipping of steel and aluminum by some countries, particularly China,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “But I think the smarter way to go is to make it more surgical and more targeted.”
Trump announced last week his plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
He is using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to justify his move. The provision allows the president to impose unlimited tariffs on imports if a federal investigation determines they pose a threat to national security.
Watch: Ryan Says There’s a ‘Smarter’ Way to Go on Tariffs
Section 232 “is too broad and more prone to retaliation,” Ryan said.
“What we’re encouraging the administration to do is to focus on what is clearly a legitimate problem and to be more surgical in its approach so that we can go after the true abusers without creating any kind of unintended consequences or collateral damage,” he said.
Ryan declined to answer a question on whether he was making headway in his conversations with Trump.
“I’m not going to go into our private conversations,” he said. “We’ve had multiple conversations about this. He knows our view. Every now and then we’re just going to have a different approach on how we should tackle these problems.”
Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady is “running point” and has been working on some solutions with the administration, Ryan said. “Those talks are ongoing, and I’m encouraged that hopefully we can get to a good place,” he said.
Brady said Monday he was circulating a letter for signatures to encourage Trump to tailor the tariffs to focus on unfair trading practices.
“My view is the president should exempt all fairly traded steel and aluminum from every country that trades fairly,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to say whether GOP leaders were open to legislative action to block Trump from imposing sweeping tariffs if the urging for a more narrow approach doesn’t work.
“Let’s wait and see what the president does,” the California Republican said. “I think there’s a lot of communication going back and forth. Everybody acknowledges that, yes, China is dumping. How do we make sure that we have a fair and level playing field?”