Cheney says China needs to be held accountable for actions that go beyond unfair trade practices to cyberattacks and to stealing trade secrets and personal information.
But the Republican Congressman sees no winners in a trade war and says the White House needs to understand how retaliatory tariffs would hurt agricultural states like Wyoming.
“Ag is so fragile and people are struggling so much right now that even without the actual tariffs from the Chinese being implemented, just the threat of them can have a big damaging impact,” Cheney said during a stop in Powell last week. “So that’s one of the reasons I think you’ve seen the president narrow his focus [with potential aluminum and steel tariffs], but I’m going to be working very hard to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect ag and that we don’t end up the loser in this.”
Cheney said she wants to see a resolution that “moves the Chinese much more towards the kind of behavior they ought to be exhibiting if they want to be a global economic leader but that doesn’t hurt our own industries.”
She added that the counter-measures China has suggested — including tariffs on soybeans, wheat and pork — clearly target states that supported Trump.
“I think it’s important for … our leadership in the executive branch to understand the real damage that it could have,” Cheney said.
In remarks to reporters on Monday recorded by POLITICO, President Trump said the U.S. would “probably” reach a trade deal with China, but said high tariffs were a “possibility.”
“If during the course of negotiation they [China] want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice, but I’ll tell you, our farmers are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country,” Trump said.
“And we’ll make it up to them [American farmers] and in the end, they’ll be much stronger than they are right now,” the president said, referring to his efforts to re-negotiate other trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In her remarks last week, Cheney said past deals haven’t protected Americans and that it’s important to have skilled negotiators working on any revisions.
“Free trade is crucial, but too often in the past we’ve entered into trade agreements that haven’t benefited us in the way they should,” she said.
Separately, Trump’s administration has also proposed new tariffs on Canadian paper — including the newsprint from Alberta that’s long been used to publish the Powell Tribune. If the preliminary tariffs are finalized, they would add $10,000 to $15,000 worth of costs to the Tribune’s operations each year, the paper’s owners have said.
The commerce department’s draft decision came in response to a complaint from the North Pacific Paper Corporation (NORPAC) in Longview, Washington, which contends Canadian paper is being subsidized and sold too cheaply.
The majority of U.S. paper makers — including the industry’s trade association, the American Forest and Paper Association — oppose the tariffs.
A group of U.S. printers, publishers, paper suppliers and distributors who’ve organized a coalition called Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers says the new tax on Canadian newsprint will wind up hurting NORPAC and will threaten thousands of U.S. jobs.
Rep. Cheney wrote a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last month warning of the potential consequences the tariff could have on U.S. jobs and rural communities that depend on local newspapers. She said last week that she does not want to see the paper tariffs go into effect.
“It’s just such a huge issue obviously for you guys [the Powell Tribune], but for our newspapers all across the state and again, a situation where there’s no good commercial reason for it,” she said. “And in fact, it has a huge negative impact.”
Speaking generally, Cheney said she’s found the Trump administration willing to listen and help when she brings a concern.
“This is an administration that really wants to limit the role of the federal government, so when they’re taking action that we can show is definitely hurting folks here in Wyoming, that’s not their intent, not what they want to have happen,” she said, adding, “I feel like we’ve definitely got the ear of folks.”
Cheney said the number of politically appointed positions that are currently vacant has proven to be a challenge — something she attributes in part to the White House and in part to Senate Democrats delaying the confirmation of appointees.
Cheney said she and U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso — the other two members of Wyoming’s all-Republican Congressional delegation — spend a good deal of time making sure federal agencies know it’s important to move quickly and making suggestions.
“We’re in a situation where I think the Trump administration came into office very focused in a lot of ways on rolling back Obama-era guidance, Obama-era regulations and in some senses, they’ve been really successful at that,” she said. “In others, I don’t think it’s moved as quickly as we’d like it to move.”
Cheney said it’s been challenging without leadership in place — such as with no current director of the Bureau of Land Management.
She’s recently been working with Wyoming counties on legislation that would take the state’s Wilderness Study Areas out of limbo. Cheney also said she’s been pleased to see Wyoming employers increasing paychecks and giving bonuses in response to the Republican tax cuts, one part of “what we can do to make sure people get to keep more of their own money.”
Cheney has also been calling for a “rebuilding” of the armed forces, including with more funding.
Three U.S. military aircraft crashed and five service members died in a two-day span last week, and “I think that just shows you the readiness crisis we’re facing,” Cheney said. “And that’s certainly exacerbated by the lack of resources.”