Trump’s trade war with China could undermine GOP chances of holding the White House and Senate in 2020.
Republicans have sat patiently with President Donald Trump on his tariff roller-coaster ride with China. Now they’re starting to feel queasy.
Trump argues his escalating trade war will force China to the table for a deal. But his ever-rising tariffs — and his market-rattling tweets — are increasingly alarming the GOP.
“There’s no question that trade uncertainty is contributing to the slowdown,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a leading free-trader. “We’re in a very good place. The danger is: Where are we going to be a year from now if concerns about trade continue to be an irritant to growth?”
Particularly as the global economy cools, key Republicans say new levies on almost all Chinese goods threaten to step on the president’s good news story: A growing economy, rising wages and low unemployment. And that could have outsize effects on Republicans’ tough task of defending the Senate and the White House in 2020.
“The biggest risk to the economy is the whole trade situation,” added Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in an interview. “I think the president did a great job, we stopped doing the regulatory burden, we have a fairer tax system … and the whole trade war has injected a huge dose of uncertainty and instability.”
Most Republicans have resisted Trump’s protectionist tendencies for ideological reasons as well as for the hit to the economy and their own political fortunes. But they’ve made an exception on China given its economic rivalry with the United States. Now his tariff regime on Chinese, European and North American imports have reduced economic growth and increased household costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Amid some talk by Trump of new tax cuts to juice the economy, his own political party is cool to the idea. Instead GOP senators are urging the president to conclude new trade deals with Japan and the United Kingdom and intensify the effort to push the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress.
Republicans like Toomey are also advising the White House to embrace modest renewals of expiring tax provisions to counteract a slowdown in business investment.
And, however delicately, they are urging Trump to show more flexibility on China.