Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican challenger Jim Renacci hailed President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to impose $50 billion worth of imports from China, a move which could trigger a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
Brown, D-Ohio, who met privately this week with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said “China’s cheating has shuttered steel plants across our state, put Ohioans out of work, and distorted global markets.”
“Today’s tariffs are in important step toward enforcing trade laws and making clear the U.S. will not allow China to cheat Americans out of their jobs,” Brown said.
Renacci, a Republican congressman from Wadsworth, said “China has consistently proven it’s a bad actor when it comes to fair trade practices, and it’s about time they are held accountable.”
But support for the tariffs on China sparked a vigorous debate between the Brown and Renacci campaigns between which candidate has been tougher on China.
Rachel Petri, a spokeswoman for Brown’s campaign, said “it’s nice of Congressman Renacci to say ‘it’s about time’ China be held accountable on trade, but working Ohioans have been asking that of him for the last seven years he’s been in Congress supporting trade deals that put Ohio jobs at risk.”
Petri was referring to Renacci voting in 2011 to approve free-trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, all which were favored by President Barack Obama. None of those agreements had any impact on trade with China.
Leslie Shedd, a Renacci spokeswoman, said “since his first term in office” in 2011, “Renacci has been fighting to hold China accountable for their unfair trade practices,” adding “it’s embarrassing to watch Sherrod Brown desperately feign support for President Trump in election season when in reality he’s a consistent obstructionist to the president’s agenda.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows while 55 percent of Ohio voters favor higher tariffs on imported goods from China, support plummets to just 46 percent if the duties lead to higher consumer prices. By their very nature, tariffs lead to higher prices.