Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he’s more optimistic that the Trump administration will resolve its international trade disputes, and that the president understands the pain the situation is causing in agricultural and manufacturing states.
Johnson, who early last week was harshly critical of the administration’s plan to spend $12 billion on aid to farmers hurt by the trade disputes, moderated his criticism in an appearance Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“He’s listening,” Johnson said of Trump.
“The whole $12 billion aid package is because he understands there is short-term pain, and he is trying to ameliorate that while still taking a pretty tough stance so we actually get a better deal,” Johnson said.
On Tuesday, Johnson had likened the farm aid package to a “Soviet-style” economy with “commissars” deciding to “sprinkle around benefits.”
On “UpFront,” Johnson said he was encouraged by the administration reaching a deal with the European Union and by Friday’s strong quarterly GDP number. He also said the U.S. appears to be close to striking an agreement with Mexico.
“I completely agree with President Trump’s goal of fair trade, reciprocal treatment. You know, he’s shocking the system. I think this week shows that it’s bearing some results,” Johnson said.
“I’m certainly more optimistic than I was at the beginning of the week,” he said.
But he also said there is mounting pressure on the president to bring trade deals to a close before the November election. Johnson said he hoped they would be completed within a few weeks.
Johnson said the next step should be confronting China over its theft of intellectual property from western nations, and that the U.S. and other countries could put pressure on the Chinese by presenting a united front.
Also on the program, state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, explained why he came out against a state plan to help Kimberly-Clark stay in the Fox Valley by offering it more than $100 million in incentives.
Kapenga said his opposition to the deal is a matter of both principal and policy over the role of government when it comes to businesses. He said the government shouldn’t give one company an unfair advantage by it helping it over others.
The Kimberly-Clark plan has been compared to the Foxconn deal. Kapenga voted for the Foxconn plan.
But Kapenga said Foxconn is a “completely separate situation.”
He said technology giant Foxconn, which is building a massive plant in Racine County, is a “fundamentally different industry that’s going to bring new jobs to the state.”
In contrast, Kapenga said paper-maker Kimberly-Clark is looking at closing multiple plants in a business that’s shrinking.
“You have a contracting industry,” Kapenga said about Kimberly-Clark.
“You’re not providing incentives to increase jobs. You’re saying ‘Hey we’re going to help bridge a gap here, because your union leaders and you couldn’t come up with the ability to do it.’ I fundamentally disagree with the concept,” he said.
Kapenga said the “net impact on the economy of Kimberly-Clark staying or going will be very minimal.”
He said Wisconsin has a worker shortage right now, and that while it would be unfortunate for workers who might lose jobs at Kimberly-Clark, they would quickly be hired elsewhere.
“There are a lot of jobs out there,” Kapenga said.
He also said he thought other Republican senators would oppose the Kimberly-Clark plan, which has already passed the Republican-controlled Assembly and has the support of GOP Gov. Scott Walker.
The Republican Senate caucus is expected to discuss the Kimberly-Clark plan later this week. Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, is pushing for the Senate to approve it. Kimberly-Clark is located in Roth’s Senate district.
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