The worst damage from the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China will happen if China is allowed to continue “stealing intellectual property,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said, citing potential harm to products manufactured in South Carolina like Boeing planes and BMW cars.
When asked Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Graham said the tariff war is “hurting.”
“But the biggest damage will be if we allow China to continue to cheat,” South Carolina’s senior senator said. “They can build a luxury car that will be just like the (BMW) X5 in China. They can build wide-body jets just like the (Boeing) 787. If we don’t stop China from stealing intellectual property and having business practices that no other country would accept, all these companies that are complaining about the tariffs today will be driven out of business.”
Earlier this month, Graham and fellow S.C. Sen. Tim Scott voted against challenging President Donald Trump’s trade agenda. Graham told McClatchy he wanted to allow Trump to get better deals for everyone involved.
“I’m willing to accept some pain,” he said during Sunday’s interview. “I’m willing to push back hard against China, but we need to get a good outcome. Start with Mexico and Canada, Mr. President. Let’s don’t fight the whole world. Let’s get our backyard in a good spot.”
CBS host Margaret Brennan noted that the tariffs Trump is threatening are on automobiles coming from Europe, not China.
“Well, China put a 40-percent tariff on BMWs going into China from the U.S.,” Graham said. “They make 81,000 cars in Greenville, S.C., sold to China. The X5 — there’s a 40-percent tariff on that product. It’s hurting us in South Carolina. I don’t know how you get China to change if you’re not willing to experience some pain.”
“The European markets need to be opened up,” he continued. “But the Europeans are not our enemy. Mexico and Canada are not our enemy. When it comes to trade, China is our enemy.”
There’s been no word from BMW on plans to reduce its workforce at the Spartanburg plant — the company’s largest — but many fear layoffs are possible as the company begins ratcheting up production in China to avoid the new tariffs.
BMW warned the Department of Commerce in a letter last month that U.S. tariffs on European cars would raise the cost of doing business, which could lead to the company slashing production in South Carolina, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.
The New York Times reported last week that BMW already has stopped exporting the X3 SUV from Spartanburg to China and, instead, is making more SUVs at plants in China and South Africa.
McClatchy DC reporter Emma Dumain contributed to this report.