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Sen. Ben Sasse said Thursday that imposition of new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports while embracing a trade war is "stupid policy" that will invite retaliation and "kill American jobs."

Sasse made the comments on "CBS This Morning" hours before President Donald Trump announced he will proceed to impose new tariffs with an exemption for Canada and Mexico while North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations continue.

Igniting a trade war is "a terrible idea," the Nebraska senator said on the morning TV broadcast.

"Really dumb policy," he added.

Later, the Republican senator convened a meeting with Geronimo Gutierrez, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, and Nebraska agricultural leaders to discuss trade, tariffs and the importance of NAFTA.

"Walking right to the brink of a trade war is dangerous," Sasse said.

"As the anti-trade nonsense in Washington gets louder, our trading partners are getting ready to retaliate against Nebraska agriculture," he said.

"Free trade is a win-win for our state," Sasse said. "A trade war would needlessly target Nebraska farmers and ranchers."

Following Trump's tariffs announcement, Sasse said "we're on the verge of a painful and stupid trade war, and that's bad.

"Temporary exceptions for Canada and Mexico are encouraging, but bad policy is still bad policy and these constant NAFTA threats are nuts."

Meanwhile, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson described Trump's action as "irresponsible."

It will place Nebraska farmers, ranchers and consumers "on the front line of a possible global trade war," he said.  

"Even with the exemption of Canada and Mexico, Nebraska risks more than $3.72 billion in agricultural exports, or 58 percent of Nebraska's total export market," Nelson said.

Rep. Adrian Smith said: "At a time when we are experiencing great economic benefits from tax reform, we should focus on opening more markets rather than enacting barriers."

After signing a letter sent to the president along with other Republican colleagues, Rep. Don Bacon said "our agricultural exports will very likely be targeted for retaliation and the impact will be squarely felt in Nebraska."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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