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Nebraska businesses, officials concerned over Trump's tariffs talk

Posted at 3:39 PM, Mar 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 19:12:35-05

Businesses and officials in Nebraska are reacting to President Trump's announcement he plans to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

At a panel event in Omaha, Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz said he couldn't see the good coming from tariffs.

"The voters that put them into office are going to be negatively impacted by trade disputes," he said.

"When I think of tariffs as a tool, it just strikes me as terribly unproductive in the long term."

The event was hosted by Trade for America and was planned back in January, long before the president's comments.

Trump is arguing for steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, saying "trade wars are good."

In a tweet Friday, Trump writes: "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win."

He argues that the U.S. is "down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore-we win big. It's easy!"

Trump said firm action was crucial to protect U.S. industry from unfair competition and to bolster national security. His announcement brought harsh criticism from some Republicans and roiled financial markets with concerns about economic ramifications.

Friday's event in Omaha highlighted vulnerabilities in Nebraska's trade economy. Nebraska Dept. of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman says tariffs, along with leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership, will hurt farmers.

"I've been involved," Wellman said. "Governor Ricketts definitely led a coalition of governors and visited with President Trump about the need for trade and their viewpoints on trade and market access."

Sen. Ben Sasse is attacking President Donald Trump over his comments that trade wars are "easy to win."

The Nebraska Republican lashed out at Trump's defense of placing new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. In a statement, Sasse says: "Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides."

Sasse continues: "Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families -- and will prompt retaliation from other countries. Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs -- that's what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing."

Rep Don Bacon says trade partnerships generate more than $3 billion for Omaha's economy.

"We need to expand our trade base in this country not shrink it," Bacon said. "Unfortunately, we're playing defense right now."