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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers wrote and sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling on the president to end “unnecessary” trade wars with U.S. trading partners because of its effects on the Wisconsin agriculture industry.
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Evers echoed the sentiments of other Democrats who launched criticisms of President Trump’s economic policies during a news conference at the State Capitol Monday.
“We can’t afford another four years of [President Trump’s] policies,” said Ben Wikler, the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “He’s walking us to the brink of an economic recession.”
Wikler and others at the news conference marked one year since President Trump published a tweet in which he encouraged a boycott of Harley-Davidson after the Milwaukee-based company said it would consider moving production to Europe because of high tariffs.
Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2018
Trump later tweeted support of the company in April of this year, but Democrats emphasized that it was an example of how the president’s policies hurt the state’s industries.
“Trump’s boycott of Harley started because of his trade war with Europe,” Wikler told reporters in Madison. “Now, he’s adding insult to injury with his trade war with China, which is further crushing our farmers, manufacturers and small businesses.”
Mandi Merritt, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, sent a statement to CBS 58 and touted job creation in Wisconsin under President Trump.
“Since President Trump was elected, he has helped create nearly 53,000 jobs in Wisconsin, including over 12,000 manufacturing jobs alone, and has delivered on his promise to negotiate better trade deals in the USMCA that would dramatically help Wisconsin farmers,” Merritt said. She added, “President Trump’s economic policies are unmatched, and to argue otherwise is just comical.”
Noah Williams, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, says that the effects of the ongoing trade wars cannot be dismissed.
“The most optimistic scenario is that this is short-term pain in the service of long-term gain,” said Williams.
Williams noted that the effects of tariffs were going on top of an already difficult situation for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry and companies like Harley-Davidson. He added that while the trade wars are adding difficulty for some of Wisconsin’s key industries, the overall economy remains strong.
“Trade is an important component,” Williams said. “But is still not perhaps the prime determinant of output in employment in the state. So even though we are facing some headwinds in this area, the state economy and the national economy have been remarkably resilient.”
Still, those in the dairy industry believe change is needed in order to help struggling farmers.
“Tariffs are making an already terrible situation so much worse for farmers and our business owners in the dairy industry,” said Anna Landmark, the co-owner and cheesemaker at Landmark Creamery.
Landmark joined Wikler and others at the Capitol to highlight the effects of current trade policy on Wisconsin.
“Big picture [President Trump] needs to repair the trade relationships and that’s entirely on him,” Landmark said.
“Locally, though, I wish we were doing a lot more to help farmers, one, stay in operation and just maintain their farms.” Landmark added, “Maybe it’s milking fewer cows for a couple of years, but they shouldn’t have to go bankrupt. They shouldn’t need to sell their entire herds because it would be so hard to bring those farms back. It’s almost next to impossible.”