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Paul Ryan urges Trump to make tariffs 'more targeted' to prevent retaliation

by Rebecca Shabad /  / Updated 
Image: Ryan departs after speaking to the media about President Trump's planned steel and aluminum tariffs
Paul Ryan departs after speaking about President Trump's planned steel and aluminum tariffs in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on March 6, 2018.Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

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House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s proposed plan to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports should be "more targeted" in order to prevent retaliation or "collateral damage."

The Wisconsin Republican was asked at a GOP leadership news conference to comment on the president’s surprise announcement last week.

"There's clearly abuse occurring," Ryan said. "Clearly there is overcapacity dumping of steel and aluminum by some countries, particularly China. But I think the smarter way to go is to make it more surgical and more targeted."

Trump’s plan is "too broad" and leaves the U.S. open to retaliation, said Ryan, who added that congressional Republicans are encouraging the administration to focus only on the abusers. The House speaker said that Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is overseeing negotiations on the issue. Ryan didn’t elaborate on what he would consider a more surgical approach.

Ryan also declined to discuss his private conversations with Trump about the tariffs plan, but said, "He knows our view." He also dismissed the volatility in the stock market as it reacted to the decision.

"Honestly, I’m not watching the gyrations of the market," he said.

On Monday, Ryan came out against the president’s plan to apply duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

"We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Monday. "The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., weighed in on the tariffs plan for the first time Tuesday afternoon, warning that it "could send the economy in the wrong direction."

"There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war," the Kentucky Republican said at a news conference after a closed-door lunch with members of his conference.

The president, meanwhile, rejected concerns from members of his own party.

"I don’t think we’ll have a trade war," he said Monday.

Just two days earlier, Trump had declared on Twitter that "trade wars are good, and easy to win."

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