Arizona Senators Sinema, McSally Talk Tariffs At Chamber Event

Published: Friday, May 17, 2019 - 5:25pm
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2019 - 5:26pm
Christina Estes/KJZZ
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) talks to Glenn Hamer at May 17, 2019, event hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Christina Estes/KJZZ
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R) talks to Arizona Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer at the Arizona Biltmore on May 17, 2019.

Arizona’s senators are weighing in on President Donald Trump’s decision to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico and the U.S. trade fight with China.

The Trump administration has been on working on a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) called the United States-Mexico -Canada Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA would modernize NAFTA, which took effect Jan. 1, 1994, with the goal of eliminating trade and investment barriers between the three countries.

When Trump placed a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports last year, he cited a national security threat. Mexico and Canada responded by imposing tariffs on some U.S. exports. Removing the tariffs is necessary to get Canada and Mexico to ratify the deal — and to win over some U.S. lawmakers.

During a Friday luncheon hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said, “In the Senate, there’s pretty broad shared agreement on USMCA.”

Republican Sen. Martha McSally said she fully supports the deal, but voting has to start in the House.

“I really believe if it came up today, it would be passed,” McSally said. “But there’s this challenge, as you know. It’s Washington, D.C., right? They don’t want to give President Trump a win but this isn’t about President Trump, this is about the American people."

A recent study by the Arizona-Mexico Commission and Arizona Chamber says nearly 230,000 Arizona jobs depend on annual trade between Mexico and Canada.

Discussion about the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China drew mixed responses from Arizona’s senators. Neither supports the tariffs, but McSally, like Trump, believes it is a national security issue while Sinema does not.

“This is really important for our economy,” McSally said. “I’m concerned, you know, because China plays the long game, and they’re not as responsible or accountable to their people as we are here and so they won’t necessarily feel the pressure even if they’re suffering. So, we’ve got to use all the elements of our national power, working with our allies in order to keep the pressure cranked up on them and hopefully we’ll get a breakthrough soon.”

Sinema said, “We haven’t heard the national security argument, we haven’t seen data that supports the national security interest. And, much closer to home, we do see the negative impact of these tariffs on American and particularly Arizona businesses.”

In February, Trade Partnership Worldwide released a study that found the average impact of tariffs on an American family of four would be $767.

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