Swedish prime minister criticizes Trump’s tariff proposal right in front of him

Trump responded by saying tariffs would be imposed in a "loving, loving way."

President Donald Trump (R) and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House March 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump (R) and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House March 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

During a joint news conference with President Trump on Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven criticized the U.S. president’s recent proposal to slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, saying that they would hurt everyone “in the long run.”

“Sweden and the United States are two of the most innovative economies in the world and we see great opportunities ahead,” Lofven said. “Swedish prosperity is built on cooperation, competitiveness, and free trade. And I’m convinced that increased tariffs will hurt us all in the long run.”

Referring to threats from the European Union, which has promised to impose a punitive 25 percent tariff on U.S.-made goods like bourbon whiskey, blue jeans, and Harley Davidson motorcycles, Lofven added, “As a Swede, I of course support the efforts of the European Union to achieve trade with fewer obstacles, as few as possible.”

After Trump defended his tariff proposal as necessary, Lofven doubled down.

“As a member of the European Union, I think it’s important for us to try to find a way to cooperate between the European Union and the United States,” he said. “I fully understand and respect the president’s view that they have to look after his own country…. That’s my primary task as well. But for me, leading a small country, depending on open trade, the best way for us is to do that with others. Because our [exports are] 50 percent of our GDP. So for us, it is crucially important that we have this open and free trade.”

Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have been met with heavy criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Last week, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) blasted the move and expressed fears that the aluminum tariff in particular would hurt his home state.

“I continue to be concerned about what other countries do in response to that,” he stated. “In our state, we make steel and aluminum, but we continue to buy a lot more than we make. Things like sheet aluminum that you use to make boats with, we make a lot of boats, it’s not available in the United States.”

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose state manufacturers Harley Davidson motorcycles and who has been critical of the president’s decision since the start, stated this week that a steel tariff would hurt American workers and the local economy.

“If you want to stand up and protect American jobs, reconsider this policy,” Walker said Tuesday, during a tour of the Bemis Industrial Products factory, which uses aluminum to manufacture ultra-thin food packaging. He added that the tariffs would likely raise prices for consumers.

Across the border, Trump’s tariff threat is already having real-life ramifications, as Mexican officials look to Brazil for steel imports in the wake of Trump’s simultaneous NAFTA crackdown.

“México shouldn’t be included in steel & aluminum tariffs. It’s the wrong way to incentivize the creation of a new & modern #NAFTA,” Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo tweeted on Monday.

The idea of a trade war has many legislators worried, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who stated on Monday that the tariffs threatened to counteract any hypothetical gains made under GOP tax bill.

“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” the speaker said through a spokesperson. “The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

For his part, Trump argued on Tuesday that a trade war wouldn’t be “so bad,” adding that he would ensure the tariffs were implemented “in a very loving way.”

“We’re going to straighten it out,” he said. “And we’ll do it in a very loving way — a loving, loving way. [Other countries will] like us better and they will respect us much more.”