WASHINGTON – The head of the country’s largest federation of labor unions offered qualified praise Wednesday for President Donald Trump’s trade policies but questioned the administration’s approach to levying tariffs.
“I think he’s going in the right direction on trade,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.
International trade is a vital part of the U.S. economy, but powerful corporate interests and secret negotiations have led to trade rules that “stacked the deck” for large corporations at the expense of working people, Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
“It’s time to rewrite those laws,” Trumka said, adding that Trump “understands that’s what needs to be done.”
Tariffs are a legitimate tool against enforcing trade agreements, but should be used selectively “like rifles” against countries that are breaking the rules, not against Canada, Trumka said.
“I don't think that Canada has violated the rules,” he said.
Trump has imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum on U.S. allies, including Canada, as part of the administration’s attempt to project a more protectionist stance amid ongoing trade negotiations with China and other countries. Canada struck back last month by imposing tariffs on $12.5 billion in U.S. goods, including beef, chocolate and ketchup.
While the AFL-CIO has traditionally aligned with Democrats, Trump has made some inroads with union workers and won the support of many during the 2016 presidential election. Asked if the AFL-CIO would endorse Trump for re-election in 2020, Trumka did not rule it out.
“We will consider every candidate,” he said.