Marsha Blackburn, the Republican Senate candidate in Tennessee, doesn’t have much disagreement with Donald Trump. “Tennessee needs a senator who is going to support President Donald Trump, and I am going to be there to stand with President Donald Trump,” she said at a rally with the president earlier this year. But there’s at least one issue, Blackburn says, where she won’t be fully behind Trump: trade, and specifically tariffs.
“The tariffs are not something that serve Tennessee well, so I disagree with him on the tariffs,” she said in an interview Tuesday, clarifying that she meant the steel and aluminum tariffs the administration first announced in March. She also said farmers were concerned with China’s retaliation to the administration’s concurrent trade actions against that country.
“The retaliatory tariffs with China, our farmers are very concerned about those. They do not want to lose those soy markets. They do not want to feel as if they’re being impeded from expanding their export base in those markets,” Blackburn said. Phil Bredesen, Blackburn’s Democratic opponent and a relative moderate, has made similar criticisms of Trump’s tariffs in a TV ad.
Blackburn’s concern about Trump’s trade policy tracks with what Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said in a Wednesday interview with Reuters. “The tariffs are beginning to have some impact in a negative way so I hope that we make some progress quickly on some of these other fronts, in particular with China,” the Kentucky Republican said, adding, “I hope that we end up in a better place sooner and don’t have to go down that path” of implementing tariffs on automobiles.
Blackburn said voters in Tennessee were optimistic about the trade negotiations Trump has been conducting with allies. “Our farming community and our manufacturing community are very encouraged by the USMCA and by the fact that the E.U. is current in negotiations,” Blackburn said, referring to the replacement trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. “That has been very well received. They are hopeful that the agreement with the E.U. is going to be finished soon.”