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For the Southern Republicans, the Trump trade war makes for poor politics

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has nothing to say when approached by CNN on Tuesday. Asked whether the trade in China is good for its state, Sen. Scott's South Carolina team he did not know. The fellow South Carolinian Sen. Lindsey Graham said it was a good question and that she should think about it. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

There are reasons the Southern Republicans are reluctant to talk about tariffs. Like any region in the country, the South has benefited from free trade, which has helped boost demand for its agricultural products and provided its factories with low cost components to feed the growing industrial region base.

But economic interests were cut off against the political preferences of most voters in the Southern states, where Trump enjoyed some of his highest ratings of the country's approval.

While tariff pain is immediate for Midwestern farmers who are stuck with bushels of unsold crops and face a spike in bankruptcies, the South may not be far behind as Trump's trade war drags on .

Politicians and business leaders in the region are concerned with a long-term trade war may interfere with nearly three decades of economic revival that brings industry, employment, and billions of dollars of investment abroad in large areas of the South, and strengthened GOP political cluster in the region.

According to a recent study of Deutsche Bank, of eight states that the economy is most affected by Chinese tariffs and is likely to hit the hardest, five in the South: Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi. They all voted for Trump in 201


Trump in South

While Republicans from Midwestern farm states are stronger in their opposition to the trade war, most Notably Iowa Sen Chuck Grassley, a farmer himself, most of the Southern Republicans keep their heads down.

That may be just a political calculation on the part of the Republicans that came from a still strong regional head of the President. According to state trends compiled by Morning Consult, the popularity of the President goes down to the Farm Belt rather than the Deep South. For example, since his appointment, Trump's net approval dropped 19 points in Nebraska, 17 points in Iowa and 22 in Kansas.

In comparison, he dropped 10 points in Alabama, 11 points in Louisiana and 14 points in Mississippi.

The calculation may change if Trump's trading policy begins to impose significant costs on Southerners. It may take some time for the tariffs to shift to the complex supply of chains through various regional industries, raising costs, reducing revenues and eventually pressing consumer wallets .

Thursday news that the retail giant Walmart based in Arkansas is raising some prices because Tariff increases are a messenger of what's coming.

The retail giant is the largest private employer in the entire South and a regional identification staple. While consumers can not feel the full effect of tariffs yet, they are in a few months.

"If you're getting back-to-school and people are trying to buy clothes from abroad for their children, that's when people feel it," says Chip Felkel, a veteran operative Republican from Greenville, South Carolina. When that happens, the party loyalty to Trump will only continue with elected officials.

"At some points elected Republicans can come to or admire that all politics is local," Felkel says.

However, at present, Southern Republicans expect the tariff to remain a temporary tool to make things more durable. "We have benefited from trade in China, but not at the level we should," said Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, the former CEO of a low price prolific retailer in the South, Dollar General. "We have no level of play."

A resurgence

During the campaign, Trump's message of foreign countries that broke up American workers and stealing their jobs were mostly in the Rust Belt, where Free trade has a lot of manufacturing. That Trump helped become the first Republican in decades to win in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

But the story of American Trump's story is not appropriate in the South. While manufacturing has fallen in the Midwest industry, production moves to South-east states, while companies end up doing unions, cheap land, low-tax and deep-water ports. In this way, the region is fertile ground for the modern party of the free market economy of the Party of republic and cultural conservatism.

Foreign direct investment is also poured into the South as companies such as Michelin, Volvo, Bosch, and Fujifilm major South Carolina operations alone. The expansion of foreign automotive assembly plants across the South – from BMW to South Carolina to Toyota in Kentucky at Nissan in Tennessee and Mississippi – is a testament of the region as a powerhouse of manufacturing. Ports in New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah and Mobile serve as the major gateways for international exports and imports for the region.

A trip down Interstate 85 – from the Research Triangle of North Carolina, through South Carolina Upstate and Metro Atlanta, to Montgomery – shows a corridor of the heavy industry. New factories and plants, most of them belong to foreigners, are led by auxiliary industrial parks and service companies.

What concerns the head of city leaders that the actions of the President of the President prevent the economic success story of the region. Mike Randle, the owner and publisher of the media group in Southern Business and Development based in Alabama, spends much of his time tracking new investment projects across the 15-state region, from Texas to Virginia.

He said that the slowdown has begun.

"Tariffs have taken the most competitive region in the US and are showing benefits," Randle told CNN. "The work has stopped. People are worried about what's coming and, of course, the costs are subject to the board."

According to Randle's tally, the number of new automotive manufacturing projects in the South with 200 jobs or more 2015 at 111. By 2018, the number of projects was halved by half to 55.

Last year, the administration provided tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum in the name of national security, hiking costs in most auto sectors. Trump looks at a similar tariff on foreign car parts but is likely to delay this action for up to six months.

Still, the only threat of action has talked companies, specifically given how destructive they are in the southern auto sector.

"If he were put into the 232 tariff [on foreign automobiles] we were in recession for a year," said Randle.

Uncertainty is a problem

That is the reason, Randle adds, that no one in economic development across the South supports tariffs.

"When you build airplanes in South Carolina at Boeing or Kia cars here in Georgia, for companies their greatest need is guaranteed," says J. Mac Holladay, who runs state-of-the-art All over the state in South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia. "We're different-in-the-world, economically-there's got to be a way forward not only always getting the ax."

Business leaders in the South do not sit back and eliminate it. Michael Olivier, formerly former secretary for Louisiana, all from state ports to industry and agricultural associations, said Congress members had expressed their concerns over too much tariffs for too long is bad for business. "We are a very trade-sensitive state," Olivier said.

"I can not tell you how many people came to our office in Mt Pleasant or in DC just say they want to know what's coming ahead," Rep. Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat primary representing the area of ​​Charleston. "There are obviously hundreds of millions of dollars in investment projects that have been sidelined or frozen until we know where we are going to the & # 39; trade war. & # 39;

What are the Republicans waiting for?

Selected Republicans in the region are not quite quiet. Senators like Scott of South Carolina and Johnny George of Assassination have set up protests against specific protective actors – especially potential auto tariffs.

But what most Southern Republicans await is a positive resolution to Trump's tradeoff in Beijing.

"President Trump did the defense of American workers who were major contributors to all his negotiations," said Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster from Texas. "Our data shows voters in the South and even key countries in the battlefield approve. As the economy is strong, GOP members are safely standing in the President."

Wilson admits that if the economy turns, that can change Trump and the Fate of the GOP, even in the deep red South. But at present there is much confidence in the voters in the region that the President can give – even if they do not like the means of administration.

"I'm not a tariff man," Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, told CNN. "I do not want the tariffs, because it's action-reactions, always. But I believe Trump goes to something like renegotiation of our trade agreements."

Even the cool of Trump's tariffs have legitimate reasons to target China for unfair trade practices. "We need to get their attention somehow, maybe this is the way to get their attention," Olivier says.

He paused, and added, "But I do not know if we can continue it for a long time."

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