Sen. Thune Peeved at Trump Trade War, Eyes Hits To U.S. Agriculture

South Dakota senator joins chorus of GOP leaders upset with Trump over ‘lose-lose’ tariff battle

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have expressed frustration over President Donald Trump’s decision to enact tariffs, triggering retaliation from other countries against U.S. producers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

South Dakota Sen. John Thune is the latest member of GOP leadership to voice his frustrations with the Trump administration over its decision to place tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel, igniting a trade war with China.

Chinese officials released a $50 billion sheet of American goods for possible tariff increases, including agricultural products — most importantly, soybeans — vital to the U.S. economy.

“They’re a big problem for American agriculture and they’re a big problem for South Dakota agriculture,” Thune told KDLT in Sioux Falls.

Thune chairs the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the Senate Republican Conference, the third-highest post in the Senate GOP’s chain of command.

China’s proposed 25 percent tariff on soybeans would likely torpedo U.S. exports of the crop due to higher prices on consumers there. The nation of nearly 1.5 billion people accounts for 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports.

“The administration needs to be thinking about the unintended consequences [of imposing tariffs on products like aluminum and steel] and what are those ripple effects, those domino effects, and what are the retaliatory actions likely to be taken,” Thune said.

He and other Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have tried to explain to White House officials how Chinese retaliation to escalating tariffs harms U.S. consumers and business owners.

Trump acknowledged Thursday the possible economic fallout for U.S. farmers — mostly concentrated in Midwestern states — but has not outlined any tangible policy solutions to mitigate the impact.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who has strongly criticized Trump’s use of tariffs, said the president’s call for more tariffs is “threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”

“This is just a bad idea to get into and escalate a trade war with countries on whom we are very dependent for our [agriculture] economy’s livelihood,” Thune said.

Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.

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