South Carolina U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan says he supports what the Trump administration is doing on tariffs — to a point.
During an interview with Greenwood affiliate WCRS last week, Duncan said he does not support tariffs in the long run because of the strain it could put on the American economy… but does think it could force China and Europe to the negotiating table.
“I’m kind of agnostic right now (on the tariffs),” he said in the Friday interview. “When I see Trump impose tariffs on the European Union and I immediately see the head of the European Union haul butt to Washington for a meeting to the White House about those, that tells me Trump got their attention.”
AUDIO: Duncan talks to WCRS about tariffs (2:59)
The comment was a reference to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announcing a trade agreement with the U.S. shortly after a White House meeting in July. Both sides agreed not to issue any further tariffs so long as negotiations continued.
Duncan argued American companies have been at a disadvantage for years because of foreign tariffs in emerging countries. He said those countries like Germany and China needed to compete on a fairer scale now that their economies have reached global status.
However, the congressman added he would be less likely to support long-term tariffs beyond those attempting to bring China or Europe to the negotiating table.
“As it draws out and we don’t see those countries come to the negotiating table and work on leveling the playing field… then I’ll probably take a position that will be anti-tariff,” Duncan said. “Because I don’t think tariffs in the long run are the right thing.”
When asked about Element Electronics — the American TV manufacturer which said tariffs will likely force it to close a Winnsboro plant this fall — Duncan downplayed the impact. He argued Element had been operating at a low margin for years, meaning any significant impact risked its entire operation.
“Any time you have an incident in the marketplace, whether it’s a tariff or whatnot… companies that have smaller margins are the ones that are hit first. Because they can’t weather some of that,” he said, noting a “rising interest rate environment” could also have shuttered the plant.
Element said the tariffs made it too expensive to import Chinese-made components, which no American company makes. Democratic lawmakers — particularly gubernatorial candidate James Smith — have blamed Trump and Republicans for not doing enough to protect American manufacturers from the tariff impact.