WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump should take "surgical" action against countries that dump steel and aluminum in US markets rather than follow through on a risky threat of global tariffs, Congress' top Republican said on Tuesday (March 6).
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, leading a sharp break with the president, said that while there was "clearly abuse occurring," particularly by China, protectionist measures could have the "unintended consequences" of a trade war.
"I think the smarter way to go is to make it more surgical and more targeted" than broad tariffs, Ryan told reporters.
Trump triggered global alarm last week when he announced he would sign off on measures designed to protect US producers, and defiantly swatted back at critics by saying trade wars are "good, and easy to win".
Ryan said such action would make the United States "more prone to retaliation."
"And so 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."
Ryan said he has had multiple conversations with Trump about the issue, and that while he would not characterise the discussions, he said the president "knows our view."
Ryan's comments come a day after he publicly split with the president on the tariffs.
"We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan," AshLee Strong, a Ryan spokeswoman, said in a statement on Monday.
Several other congressional Republicans were urging Trump to abandon his plan to slap a new import tax of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.
"We have concerns," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said of the effects the tariffs could have on allies like Canada and Mexico.