OSHKOSH — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker traveled to a pair of companies on Tuesday, March 6, to campaign against President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
"If you want to stand up and protect American jobs, reconsider this policy," Walker said.
Walker spoke in front of huge rolls of ultra-thin aluminum packaging at Bemis Industrial Products, which has its North American headquarters in Oshkosh. The governor said Bemis and Seneca Foods in Janesville -- which he visited Tuesday afternoon -- face an "existential threat" if the president goes through with tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.
President Trump is fulfilling a campaigning promise to crack down on cheap imports, aiming to protect American companies that make steel and aluminum. He has floated the idea of a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.
Walker said there are no U.S. companies that can meet demand for the ultra-thin aluminum at Bemis' sprawling headquarters. The company has 5,000 Wisconsin workers, the governor said.
The governor said the tariff plan took him by surprise, and that President Trump never mentioned it to governors during a meeting at the White House last week.
Walker said he's been talking to administration officials about the issue since July.
"I got the sense then that they understood our concerns. I got a sense of satisfaction that they were attentive to those concerns," Walker said.
Tony Palese, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, questioned the governor's explanation.
"Pretty sure Trump threatened tariffs throughout 2016. How was this a surprise for Walker or any other GOP politician who endorsed (Trump)?" Palese tweeted.
Walker wasn't the only Wisconsin Republican to criticize the president's plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson have voiced concerns.
Ryan said Tuesday that there was trade abuse going on, but President Trump's plan would have unintended consequences.
"So what we're encouraging the administration to do is to focus on what is clearly a legitimate problem and to be more surgical in its approach," said Ryan.
But President Trump showed no signs of backing down from his tariff plan during a joint news conference with Sweden's prime minister.
"We've been mistreated as a country for many years, and it's just not going to happen any longer," President Trump told reporters. He floated the idea of exempting Canada and Mexico if he gets concessions from those countries during renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The European Union, which includes Sweden, has threatened to retaliate against a tariff with a new tax on U.S. products -- specifically mentioning Harley-Davidson motorcycles. President Trump said Tuesday that some trade wars "aren't so bad."