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Rep. Tim Ryan On Trade Steps He'd Like To See Trump Take


A high-level U.S. delegation is in China today. It's being led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. These talks with China come as the two countries seem on the brink of a trade war. China has reacted angrily to President Trump's tariff threats. Senior Chinese officials say China is not going to be backing down. And it's not just the Chinese who are concerned. The European Union and other allies are still waiting to hear whether they will be included in the tariffs. Let's talk to one person following this very closely, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who joins us. Good morning, Congressman.

TIM RYAN: Good morning.

GREENE: So you have steel producers in your district, as you've spoken about on our air before, and last time we spoke, you said you were supporting President Trump's imposing tariffs on China to help domestic producers. Is that still your position?

RYAN: Yeah. I mean, you know, you look at areas like Youngstown, Ohio, or the industrial Midwest - China's been cheating for years, and they've been dumping products artificially, lowered the prices. For example, as I've said before, you know, their final product lands on the shores of the United States, and it's the same price as the American companies' raw material costs. That's how much they are manipulating the system and supporting their own businesses and dumping these products. And it's wiping out steel across the country, not to mention what they do with intellectual property and a variety of other things.

GREENE: So you support this - these talks in Beijing, and I would imagine you want the Trump administration to get as tough as they can on China. Is that right?

RYAN: Yeah. I mean, we have to take a stand on this. They've been cheating on this issue, on intellectual property and other issues as well. I'm not supporting the idea that - you know, we don't want a trade war. We have to figure out how to work this out. The problem we have is that there is no strategy in the United States. This is my - you know, I don't know what the president and the administration is going to do now. You know, China has a long-term economic plan that they have, a 20-year plan, a 30-year plan, a 50-year plan, 100-year plan. We're operating in a 24-hour news cycle, and we better have a larger strategy as we start to take on this huge economic force.

GREENE: But wait, I thought the president at least seems to say that he has a strategy. It's to impose these tariffs, which, I mean, in theory, would level the playing field, help steel producers. I mean, there are a lot of critics who have a lot of concerns about this approach, but if you want producers like those in your district to be supported, isn't that a strategy that you're getting behind? What should be different?

RYAN: It's a tactical move. It's not part of a comprehensive strategy we have against China. You know, China - for example, the huge tax cut was $2 trillion, and a lot of that money we're going to borrow from China. That puts us in a position of weakness with China. China is going into places like Africa, getting raw materials to continue to feed its economic machine. They have a long-term strategy. They want to be in the top 10 - in the top 10 - or they want to be No. 1 in the top 10 sectors of the economy in the next five to 10 years. They're building bases in Africa. They're going to wind, solar, renewables, battery-powered cars. I mean, they have this comprehensive strategy. We - we're working a 24-hour news cycle here.

GREENE: Well, I'm just trying to understand - you know, you're being critical of President Trump and this White House and the 24-hour news strategy - the 24-hour strategy as you say. So what can you and other Democrats who are with you on this do in terms of working with the White House to get the tariffs you want and make the changes to this strategy that you feel are necessary?

RYAN: Well, part of it is having people in the State Department having a long-term, sophisticated, diplomatic operation, being in touch with China, continuing to talk to them and having a relationship with them in the long term but also having an economic strategy of our own in that region of the world, making sure that we are competing globally, we're not retreating from, you know, NATO and our relationships that we have militarily and diplomatically in that region, and letting our friends and allies know that we are going to be with them and compete in this global economy. There's none of that going on right now in the Trump administration. And so this comes off to most of us as a one-off.

GREENE: That is Congressman Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, speaking to us this morning. He has a lot of steel producers in his district, and there's a top-level U.S. delegation talking about trade in China today. Congressman, thank you.

RYAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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