Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discovered Thursday one of the few things that could unite Republicans and Democrats: trade war fears.
Mnuchin, getting grilled by members of the House Financial Services Committee, was peppered with questions about what he was doing to prevent the US economy from tanking amid the growing tariff tussles.
“Not only do tariffs harm American consumers — they harm many American employers and their American workers as well, since over half of our imports are intermediate components or raw materials for American businesses,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, said in prepared remarks.
Hensarling was joined by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who pointed out that US companies — including Harley-Davidson — are already reacting to trade war pressure.
“What are you doing as treasury secretary to prevent further harm to our economy from the growing trade war?” Waters asked, pointing to the motorcycle maker’s announcement last month that it was moving production of Europe-destined bikes overseas to avoid retaliatory tariffs.
“I think it’s unfortunate that [Harley-Davidson is] talking of moving jobs,” Mnuchin said, adding that President Trump asked the motorcycle-maker not to move the jobs.
It was the first of many strained interactions between Mnuchin and the committee.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) pressed Mnuchin on soybean farmers and how they have already been harmed by tariffs. Mnuchin said the situation was “unfortunate.”
“What we’re trying to do is get free and fair trade with China, and they have unfairly targeted specific markets and that’s not coincidental,” Mnuchin said.
At times, Mnuchin appeared to be sympathetic to trade war concerns raised by committee members, prompting Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) to ask if Trump listens to Mnuchin’s advice.
“I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t think he listens to my advice. I couldn’t be happier with the economic plan we’re on,” Mnuchin said.
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