Sen. Tester concerned about retaliation over steel tariffs

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 7, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TRISH REGAN, GUEST HOST: Well, Gary Cohn bolting after losing the battle over tariffs. It's an issue some red state Democrats are liking a whole lot.

Does this red state Democrat agree? Montana Senator Jon Tester is here.

Good to see you, Senator.

What do you think? Where do you come out on tariffs right now?

SEN. JON TESTER, D—MONTANA: Well, I’ll tell you, Montana is a state where we raise a lot of grain. And we have more cattle than we got people. So we raise a lot of cattle.

We depend on those export markets in a big, big way. And I know steel and aluminum isn't a tariff on cattle or grain, but I think there’s a lot of concern about retaliation because of the tariffs.

We do depend upon -- on export markets. We export most of the products we raise and grow in our state. And we will see what happens.

I want to see the trade...

REGAN: So, you're worried it’s going to hurt your state. You're worried it's going to hurt the economy.

TESTER: I am.

REGAN: You think tariffs, there will be a retaliation that is actually going to be problematic for you.

TESTER: Yes. It creates some uncertainty.

Look, I want to see the trade imbalance go away, too. But the bottom line is, we have got to figure out a way to do it without closing off markets.

REGAN: Do you think that we’re really going to close off those markets or perhaps this is bit of a negotiation tactic, a bit of posturing ahead of NAFTA? For example, you know that Canada is our number one supplier of steel.

TESTER: Yes, I think the point that you make is exactly the point that I hear from most people involved in agriculture in Montana. And that is, it creates a level of uncertainty, where people, they just don’t know what is going to happen.

And that uncertainty breeds a lot of anxiety.

REGAN: Well, he has telegraphed it, right, 25 percent for steel, 10 percent for aluminum. And it's going to happen possibly next week.

So, in terms of uncertainty, I guess you're saying, well, maybe it can spiral into something else and before you know it, Europe is going to say, well, we're going to tax all the bourbon now, which, you know, maybe the Europeans can drink a little less.


TESTER: Yes.

REGAN: But I actually -- we are the number one economy in the world. We have a lot of leverage here. Maybe this is an opportunity to use it, Senator.

TESTER: Well, look, you’re correct.

I think the challenge and where we have people in Montana that are worried about this is, is that if another country says, well, you know what, they put a tariff on our steel, so we’re going to put a tariff on the wheat we import from Montana, well, then they will go to Argentina or Australia or somewhere else, and we will lose those markets.

REGAN: It's like this race to the bottom.

TESTER: That's exactly correct.

REGAN: Which, by the way, is hurting Americans in the process.

Let me ask you, are you upset about Gary Cohn leaving at all? Are you concerned about that?

TESTER: Well, look, Gary Cohn is one of the folks -- one of my contacts at the White House that I talk to. We're working on a banking bill right now that I talk to Gary about to try to figure out ways we can get it across the finish line.

On that side of the equation, I'm sad because he's not going to be a point of contact for me. He's going to be replaced by somebody. We will have to figure out who that is and try to develop a relationship with the next person that comes in.

REGAN: So business as usual.

TESTER: Yes.

REGAN: There's been a lot made of all of these departures in the White House. Your sense of how things are going there?

TESTER: Well, I mean, I think that predictability and memory of things that have transpired over the last 15 months are important going forward.

You know, Gary Cohn is a straight-up guy. I like him a lot. And I’m sorry to see him go. But, nonetheless, he had his reasons.

REGAN: Someone else good will come in. OK.

TESTER: That's correct.

REGAN: All right, thank you so much. It's good see you, Senator.

TESTER: You bet, Trish.

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