STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A reporter asked President Trump yesterday about a warning on trade. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he worried about a trade war after the president promised tariffs on imported aluminum and steel. President Trump answered and then abruptly changed the subject to a different trade issue.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, we're not backing down. Mexico is - we've had a very bad deal with Mexico, a very bad deal with Canada. It's called NAFTA.
INSKEEP: Let's talk about the tariffs on aluminum and steel with Representative Tom Reed. He is a Republican from upstate New York. He joins us now.
TOM REED: Well, thank you for having me on, Steve.
INSKEEP: The president has said he's happy to do a trade war; trade wars can be good. Do you believe a trade war can work?
REED: No. I'm obviously concerned about any trade war. But I do understand what the president's doing, and I support the action he's proposed on taking and getting people to the table - our trading partners - to enforce the rules of equal and fair trade.
INSKEEP: Let me make sure I understand this. Does that mean you want the tariffs to be imposed?
REED: I am open to what the president is putting on the table. I believe he's sending a good message across the world that the trade policy of America has changed. We need to be much more aggressive to protect our steel and our aluminum as well as our overall economic course. But at the end of the day, I believe he will agree with us that a trade war, ultimately, is in no one's interests, and that this is about getting to that fair policy that each country can represent in good faith and compete on an equal and level playing field.
INSKEEP: Congressman, I'm listening very closely, and knowing, as I do, that you have voted for free trade deals in the past, I think you'd describe yourself as a supporter of free trade. So I want to try to interpret what you just said. I think you're saying that you don't want to directly confront the president. You think this might be OK as a negotiating ploy. But actually imposing the tariffs would be a bad idea. Is that what you're saying?
REED: Well, I think - I'm open to tariffs being employed against our trading partners that have a long history of abusing that trading relationship. And this is another tool in the toolbox, in my opinion, to send the message and also to hold those trading partners accountable for their bad actions. When you have a country like China that is dumping steel and aluminum being dumped into our markets from other trading partners, that is not sustainable. And what the president is doing is exactly what I believe needs to be done - is that this is to change the trading policy of America to say to the rest of the world, we're not going to do that any longer; we're not going to accept that any longer. And at the end of the day, what will end in - end up happening, in my opinion, is that we will get trade agreements that are truly fair, equal and enforceable. And those are the trade agreements I have supported in the past, in my opinion. And those are the trade agreements I will support in the future.
INSKEEP: What do you think about the fact that the loudest complaints about the president's promise or threat have not come from China? They've come from U.S. allies like Germany.
REED: I know. And that is exactly the issue that's at play. But we've had other trading partners, other countries around the world that have dumped their steel and their aluminum into our marketplace. And I think this is a marker to send a message - not only to those trading partners such as other countries that we have relationships with, but also the relationship we have with China - to say that there's going to be a new trading relationship under this administration's direction that is going to say, that's not acceptable any longer. And I think that overall, in the long run, will be positive. Now, obviously, I'm very concerned about the short-term impacts. I'm very concerned about igniting any type of trade war. But at the end of the day, we need to change our policies because the status quo is not something that can be sustainable under the existing trade relationships we have.
INSKEEP: Totally understand the concern about Chinese steel being dumped in the United States. They've produced so much of it, such a huge percentage of the world's steel. And yet, doesn't the domestic steel industry in the United States still make three-quarters of American steel?
REED: That's absolutely correct. I believe that's an accurate number. And I believe, however, that there is opportunities for that steel base to expand. And with the unfair competitive edge that these other countries such as China are deploying against us, it limits our ability to grow our steel industry and our aluminum industry. And from my perspective, being a proud supporter of U.S. manufacturing and trying to bring U.S. manufacturing back here, this is something we have to go forward with.
INSKEEP: Congressman Tom Reed of New York state, thanks very much.
REED: Thank you so much, really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.