Why Republicans don’t push back on Trump’s China tariffs



John Seungmin Kuk, Deborah Seligsohn and Jiakun Jack Zhang

On Friday, Beijing announced new tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods — prompting new U.S. threats to ratchet up tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States. These are just the latest volleys in the trade war sparked by the Trump administration’s announcement to put tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese exports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and a few other Republicans in Congress have publicly criticized President Trump’s trade war with China, but most Republican lawmakers have not broken ranks with the administration. This is puzzling, when China appears to be targeting key Republican-held districts with its list of retaliatory tariffs.

Our research suggests that Republican attitudes on trade have been evolving — long before Trump’s China-bashing presidential campaign. We believe that Capitol Hill’s silence on free trade isn’t simply because Republicans are cowed by Trump or reluctant to alienate his supporters.

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