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McConnell: Republicans concerned tariffs could spark trade war

 McConnell: Republicans concerned tariffs could spark trade war
© Greg Nash
 
"I think the best way to characterize where most Republican senators are right now, including myself, is genuine concern that this not escalate into something much broader," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday
 
He added that GOP senators are concerned the floated tariffs on imported aluminum and steel could "metastasize into a larger trade war" and are "urging caution" as the administration continues to finalize its plan. 
 
McConnell's comments are his first since the White House announced last week that Trump was planning to levy a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
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Even as most of his caucus, including members of his own leadership team, have publicly raised concerns, the normally tight-lipped GOP leader stayed silent until Tuesday afternoon. McConnell's stance on the tariffs sharply differed from that of House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems: Ryan ‘sole impediment’ to DACA deal The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's Morning Report: Haley clashes with White House MORE (R-Wis.) and his staff, who have publicly urged Trump to back down.
 
Both McConnell and Ryan's home states are being targeted with potentially retaliatory tariffs. The European Union said it would impose tariffs on bourbon — a move that would have economic consequences in Kentucky, which is responsible for producing a majority of the world's bourbon. 
 
McConnell did not specifically say if he has had a discussion with Trump about his proposed tariffs, but said, "Many of our members are discussing with the administration just how broad, how sweeping this might be." 
 
Pressed on how open he believes the administration is on making exemptions for specific countries, McConnell reiterated that Republicans have a "lot of concern." 
 
"From a Kentucky point of view NAFTA has been a big winner. We've benefited from it in every way," he said, referring to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 
 
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said earlier Tuesday that Mexico and Canda could be exempted from the tariffs if NAFTA could be successfully updated. 
 
Several Republicans have also urged the administration to make the tariffs more specific, warning that blanket tariffs could undercut the economic gains generated by the GOP tax plan.