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‘Tariff Man’ strikes again

Donald Trump might have learned some basics about tariffs — such as who pays for them — during his more than 3 1/2 years of waging unwise trade wars.

Instead, the Republican president still doesn’t get, or simply ignores, the financial burden on regular Americans. Trump continues to claim that nations on whose goods he imposes tariffs pay the import taxes. In fact, U.S. consumers or companies end up footing the bill.

Take the new 10 percent import tax Trump says he is going to reinstate on Canadian aluminum. Canada won’t pay that. Companies that use aluminum will, and then they’ll pass it on to consumers who buy their products. And when other countries retaliate with tariffs of their own, American workers suffer because the goods they produce aren’t as competitive. Less demand becomes less work becomes smaller or fewer paychecks.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, appropriately criticized Trump’s aluminum tax and its effect on the Badger State.

“These tariffs will also disproportionately harm Wisconsin’s storied beer industry, which is already facing weakened demand due to a national shortage of aluminum cans and a stagnant economy,” Kind said. “This is not how we treat allies that we have recently agreed to a new trade deal with.”

The tariff likely violates the recent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump was so proud to negotiate, Kind warned.

Trump, who calls himself “Tariff Man,” points to a surge in imported Canadian aluminum to support his charge that Canada was trying to flood the U.S. market. But aluminum demand has gone up as pandemic quarantines have driven bar patrons home and away from draft or bottled beer. In addition, the growing popularity of hard seltzers has increased demand for aluminum cans.

Imports of Canadian aluminum have actually leveled off, and they even dropped from May to June, according to the Aluminum Association trade group, further undercutting Trump’s stated rationale.

Instead, it seems clear that Trump, who announced the tariffs at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, is trying to score points with Midwest industrial workers. But a move that will make people pay more for beer and other products served in aluminum cans while harming American workers affected by Canada’s retaliatory tariffs seems destined to backfire. Launching another unnecessary, unwinnable trade war during a global pandemic against an ally that recently signed a trade treaty with America is the real threat to national security. Soybeans were one thing. But when the price of a six-pack goes up because the cans are more expensive, maybe Americans and Congress will finally do something.

* Guest editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wis.

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