Sen. Orrin Hatch told Salt Lake business leaders on Friday that President Trump’s escalating use of tariffs could threaten to undermine the state and country’s recent economic gains.
“The administration should not impose further tariffs on our allies and partners, particularly on autos and auto parts,” he said.
Hatch spoke at a symposium organized by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Center Utah, both of which are vocal critics of the current trade policy.
His comments came just hours after Trump tweeted about an additional round of tariffs on Turkish metal, sending that country’s financial market into turmoil.
Hatch, who is the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said the threat of $660 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports is nothing more than a tax on consumers.
“These actions put American families and businesses at risk, and threaten to undermine the success of tax reform,” he said. “Furthermore, they close off the international markets that Utah farmers and ranchers and businesses depend on.”
Hatch, who is a staunch supporter of the president, said he’ll consider legislation in Congress to curtail the president’s trading authority if he continues to impose duties.
“I’ve told the president this myself,” he said. “It isn’t something he doesn’t understand. … Or at least I don’t think he doesn’t understand.”
The tariffs have not gone over well in conservative Utah, where the state economy is heavily reliant on trade.
Derek Miller, president of the Salt Lake Chamber and executive director of the state’s future inland port, said Utah’s businesses are already competing in the global economy and need reliable trade policies.
"They need free markets. They need fair trading practices. And they need the stability and the predictability that comes with strong trading agreements,” he said.
Utah’s exports have doubled over the last decade and nearly one-quarter of all jobs in the state are tied to trade in some way. The World Trade Center estimates Trump’s tariffs could affect close to $180 million in Utah exports.
Miller said trade wars often result in these "self-inflicted wounds.”
“The message from Utah ought to be, to paraphrase the 1960s, ‘Make deals, not wars,’” he said.