S.C.'s GOP lawmakers feel heat for supporting Trump's tariffs

Because of the Trump administration's tariffs on certain imports, some American companies are getting hit twice – when they import raw materials and when they sell their final products. President Trump is encouraging Harley Davidson owners to boycott the company if it moves manufacturing overseas to avoid tariffs. The president tweeted yesterday that the "U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better."

South Carolina Republican Tom Rice was at home for August recess, and at town halls, the same issue kept coming up: trade and the president's tariffs.

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While businesses and consumers warn that jobs are at risk, 5 of South Carolina's 6 Republican Congressmen, including Tom Rice, say they back the president's trade policies.

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"Stand up and DO something about it! Say something!" one constituent admonished him.

"Those tariffs are taxes on the working people!" said another.

"OK, so it needs to be corrected, we all agree with that," Rice replied.

South Carolina is where farming meets manufacturing. BMW's Spartanburg plant is its largest in the world. Dozens of auto part manufacturers have sprung up around it.

Daryl Kidd is the sales manager at MSI in Rock Hill, where they build forklift components using Canadian steel. The president imposed 25 percent tariffs on that raw steel in June, which drove up the price.

"We had to evaluate and actually pass on about a 15-percent increase to our customer base," said Kidd.

"So, your customers are paying 15 percent more than they were before here in the U.S.?" asked congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes.

"Correct."

South Carolina's Chamber of Commerce recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to do "whatever it takes to inform the administration about the jobs at risk" due to rising tariffs.

But currently, five of South Carolina's six GOP Congressmen are backing the president. Rice is one of them. "Well, it's not free trade if you are standing and letting the other guy stick it to you," Rice said.

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A 25% tariff on Canadian steel imports has forced Rock Hill, S.C. manufacturer MSI to raise prices on its products sold here in the U.S. 

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He argues that U.S. pressure will eventually force China and Europe to drop high, longstanding tariffs on U.S. goods.  "This is the classic example of short-term discomfort for long-term gain," Rice said.

In the meantime, MSI has applied for a waiver from the tariffs on Canadian steel.

Cordes asked, "Could you use U.S.-made steel?"

"Well, right now we can't," Kidd replied, "because there is no U.S. supplier that gives us the kind of material that we use."

With Mr. Trump mulling more tariffs on Chinese goods, China recently announced it is hiking its tariffs on foreign cars to 40 percent – a move designed to hurt U.S. manufacturers like BMW.

In a bid to ratchet down the tension, the Senate quietly passed a bill that would actually lower tariffs on some Chinese goods, and they're looking at other ways to signal that the U.S. doesn't want a trade war.