Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is thrilled that President Donald Trump is moving forward with tariffs of 25 percent on steel and ten percent on aluminum imports into the United States, he told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
“I’m extremely happy. I really was—I mean, for the first time, I know what happened with NAFTA,” Manchin said in a phone interview. “I know what it did to West Virginia, to our steel industry, our aluminum industry, to good-paying jobs that you can support your family. Everybody just turned their backs on us and let it happen, but I’m very proud about that [Trump’s tariffs] and that we got people understanding it. If you look at the national security of our country, which everyone should look at, you can’t be the superpower of the world and not have the necessary building blocks. If you don’t have steel, aluminum, and high-alloy, you’re in trouble.”
Manchin noted that China has not only “been trying” but has “been successful” in supplanting the United States in terms of steel and aluminum production and that President Trump’s actions are necessary to stop and then reverse that trend.
“How do you grow to be the largest manufacturer of steel in the world unless you’re infiltrating other markets?” Manchin said. “So, China produces 50 percent of the world’s steel. The United States is the largest importer of the world’s steel, from around the world, just to connect the dots. They’re going to come and tell me to try to make me believe that only 2 percent of our steel comes from China? Christ, I’ve got oceanfront property in West Virginia I want to sell you if you believe that. Here’s the thing: We got steel coming to us from countries that don’t have a steel mill. Tell me about that one?”
Manchin added that Trump’s tariffs are important to combat China because other countries serve as a conduit to push Chinese metals into America.
“That’s why he had to be carte blanche on what he did, 25 and 10,” Manchin said.
Manchin also said that even though official Washington, the media, the political class, and financial elites who drive debates in the nation’s capital are upset by the tariffs, they are deeply popular back home in West Virginia.
“I don’t think there’s anybody I know in West Virginia who would be opposed to what he’s done,” Manchin said. “Now, whether it’s gotten to that level—now, when I talk to them, and I’m talking to people, I just say ‘don’t you think that, let’s just go through basic trade. If a country is charging us 20 percent to send our cars to their country, where they’re coming to our country for 2.5 percent, don’t you think we ought to equal that out a little bit to make it fair.’ They understand that completely. So, when the president is talking, he’s talking their language. We’ve been taken advantage of.”
Manchin also said he has spoken with Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro, the head of the National Trade Council, about his support for the tariffs—and that he has urged Navarro to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) altogether and instead replace it with two separate bilateral trade agreements, one with Canada and one with Mexico.
“And I’ll tell you another thing I appreciate, and Peter Navarro—I had a very nice conversation with him, and I really like him,” Manchin said. “The man’s solid and he’s grounded. I said, Peter, this multilateral deals, I’ve always thought the country, the United States of America, makes these multilateral deals. There might be one or two countries out of four or five that are in the deal, the multilateral deal, that we want to help because of abject poverty, to try to give them some juice to get into our markets, and then the other two or three that don’t need it just take advantage of us and just rape the hell out of us. I’m all for bilateral. We should be dealing directly with Mexico. We should be dealing directly with Canada. I think, when you look at NAFTA, you say ‘well, it’s the whole North American continent.’ But it’s completely two different countries, two different cultures. So, I am all for the president breaking these down to a bilateral, it’s going to be me and you.”
Manchin said blowing up NAFTA, and instead doing separate deals with Canada and Mexico respectively “would make much more sense.”
“We rely on Canada and they rely on us much differently than Mexico does,” Manchin said. “So, this NAFTA deal worked out for Mexico because of the cheapness of it. It has its advantages. You should see the labor going down to Canada. Everything labor intensive went to Canada and Mexico, but twenty something years later they still have a minimum wage of less than $1.50 an hour? What did they achieve? Nothing.”
Manchin added that he is “all for this plan” because it directly confronts China’s drive for world superiority. He referenced his previous successful efforts to press the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to block the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to Chinese investors, and noted that the Chinese are engaged in a full scale effort to economically combat the United States.
“This whole thing with China, make no mistake about it, China is on a pathway that they want superiority by 2050,” Manchin said. “Everything I would say about China is when we’re trading, or China is coming in, and that’s what elevates my concerns. Do you want them to have all the pertinent information, all the priority information, from the Chicago Stock Exchange that they would have entree to? Would you think that we can go into China and buy their financial markets? Do you think that we could own what China is trying to buy in America in China? I’m just saying reciprocate. Just reciprocate. That’s all. Common sense. If we can’t go there and do what they want to do here, they shouldn’t be upset about that. It makes all the sense in the world.”
Manchin also said that the opposition to President Trump’s tariffs from the establishment in Washington–from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among other establishment Republicans–is driven by “Wall Street” and motivated by greed.
“This is Wall Street, brother,” Manchin said. “Tell me. This is not them caring about Main Street. They’re now protecting their base, where their money comes from, and this is Wall Street. It’s Wall Street. They can’t even camouflage that one. You got the Gary Cohns of the world, and Gary getting tee’d off and leaving for whatever reason he did, his whole modus operandi is where he comes from—and that’s fine, I know where his background is all Wall Street, high finance, Wall Street. They’re thinking Wall Street is going to keep us safe and secure. I don’t think so. A lot of people with fat pocketbooks, and I guess that’s the American way maybe, but it’s not who we are as a country, who we are, and how we became who we are.”
Manchin added that while he has not spoken directly to the president about this, that President Trump knows he is supportive of the tariffs.
“Not directly on that, but he knows I’m very much supportive on this,” Manchin said. “This is where his base truly is, rural America, the people who get up every day. Those picturesque people who answer every call the country has ever asked them to do, to sacrifice, these are the people who support what the president is doing right now. We want trade, but we want good trade. We’re compassionate to help countries up out of abject poverty, but not let other countries tie into it and ride their coattails in and get an entree to the greatest market. Then, I hear people say ‘oh we’re going to cause a trade war.’ Really? So, you’re thinking that if you’re another country and you have a tremendous entree to the United States market—the greatest market the world has ever known—that now because of principle you’re going to get pissed off and shut down this and this and this? I don’t think so. Now, what it does is it will give us another chance to level the playing field. That’s called fair. That’s what I count on.”