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Canfield says Trump tariffs slowed timeline on big manufacturing investments in the state

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield (R) told Bloomberg’s John Lippert that the state of Alabama is seeing delays in big manufacturing investments in due to President Donald Trump’s (R) trade policies and is urging a more conciliatory approach.

“We’ve seen a couple of projects that we’ve been actively working where their timeline has slipped,” Greg Canfield, the state’s secretary of commerce, said in an interview. “The longer this drags out, the more danger there is that we’ll see a real drag on our economy. We’re going to see Alabama lose jobs, and that’s not acceptable.”

Alabama is increasingly reliant on foreign manufacturers such as: Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, Airbus, Toyota, etc. and those manufacturers have to import parts, components, as well as steel and aluminum. Tariffs that the U.S. has placed on those imports, particularly steel and aluminum have made the cost of manufacturing increase. Meanwhile threats of retaliatory from trading partners means an increasing likelihood that they will impose tariffs on our exports.

Since the Mercedes investment in Vance in 1997 the state now has 57,000 autoworkers building about a million cars and light trucks per year.

Canfield would not name the companies that have put their investment plans on hold.

Canfield said that Trump’s tariffs on imported cars and auto parts will raise the price of every U.S. vehicle, since they all contain foreign components.

“Uncertainty equates to risk, and risk is a very chilling factor when it comes to investing your money. You either invest it somewhere else or you hold on to it until the situation becomes more certain. I want to make it clear we’re not fighting President Trump on this. We’re trying to raise awareness and educate the administration — the U.S. Department of Commerce in particular — and urge a more measured approach.”

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Governor Kay Ivey (R) has also expressed concerns about the Administration’s trade policies.

“Import tariffs and any retaliatory tariffs on American made goods, will harm Alabama.” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabama has a rich history as a leader in manufacturing, a legacy which continues in large part, through our five automotive original equipment manufacturers and our over 200 supporting suppliers that have helped establish “Made in Alabama” as an internationally-respected brand/ Last year proved to be a banner year for auto industry growth in Alabama, with nearly $3 billion in automotive-related investments. Before the recent announcement of a new Mazda-Toyota plant, and other automotive-related growth, more than 57,000 Alabamians were already employed by our auto manufacturing sector, a number which is expected to increase. However, this growth could be stymied if tariffs are imposed on the goods we export around the world.”

“In 2017, Alabama reached a record high of $21.7 billion in exports, with our auto industry accounting for $10.9 billion of those exports,” Ivey concluded. “The largest importers of Alabama made goods and services were Canada, China, Germany, Mexico and Japan – all countries which may be forced to reciprocate in response to any new import tariffs.”

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“Import tariffs and any retaliatory tariffs on American made goods, will harm Alabama.” Ivey said in a statement critical of proposed new tariffs on foreign imports by the Trump Administration.”

Donald J. Trump (R) was elected President of the United States vowing to fight what he called one sided trade deals.

Retaliation against our trade policies have also begun to affect the market price of some commodities. China purchases 30 percent of the U.S. soybean crop; but has been accused of dumping steel and aluminum on the global market.

The Chinese have put in place tariffs on a range of U.S. agricultural products, including 15 percent tariffs on: fruit, nuts, and wine, and a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork. Trump retaliated by threatening to target an additional $50 billion in Chinese goods. China responded by threatening to impose 25 percent tariffs on: soybeans, corn and corn products, wheat, sorghum, cotton, beef and beef products, cranberries, orange juice, tobacco and tobacco products.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote on June 25, “President Donald Trump is standing up to China, which wrongly believes it can bully our farmers to get America to back away from defending our national interests. The president understands that our farmers feed, fuel and clothe this nation and the world, and he will not allow U.S. agriculture to bear the brunt of China’s retaliatory tactics.”

“American producers have benefited from the policies of the Trump administration, including historic tax reforms and reduced regulations,” Perdue continued. “And farmers know that 20 cents of every dollar of their income relies on trade, which is why they are watching the situation with China closely. The simple truth is that when trading partners break the rules, there must be consequences.”

“We have the worst trade deals in the history of the world,” President Trump said in Duluth on June 21. “We gave away our country, but we’re taking it back for our workers, for our companies, for our jobs, for our money, for our taxes. It’s incredible. And you know, we have a lot of friends. But our friends, in many respects, Kevin, treated us worse on trade than the enemies. And we are doing a lot of things about it. We’re renegotiating trade deals left and right, and they’re all coming back.”

“You know, we have, I want to say, right on our side,” Pres. Trump said. “We also have the fact that we have been taken advantage of for many, many years, and it’s not happening anymore. Not happening anymore. And you see it. And you see it going on. And it’s not happening anymore.”

(Original reporting by Bloomberg News, Civil Eats, Fox News, and NBC News contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Congress

Negotiations on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill appear to have broken down

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Capitol Building (STOCK PHOTO)

Both parties in Congress and the White House hoped to have agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, but those hopes appear to have been dashed after a Thursday night meeting at the White House.

The Washington Post reports that the White House and Democrats failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on the fifth virus relief bill. White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation with no agreement and both sides far apart on basic issues.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has insisted on a $3.4 trillion package. The White House wants a $1 trillion relief package.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump was called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues.

Pelosi said that the meeting was “consequential,” but blamed Republicans for the breakdown in negotiations.

“They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time, and that’s why it’s hard to come to terms,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said that if the administration decides that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid. Schumer said Democrats were “very disappointed” in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court.

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Pelosi claimed that Meadows pounded the table at one point. Meadows denies the allegation.

“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”

Over 30 million unemployed Americans will see their unemployment checks dramatically cut next week without an extension of benefits. Trump has suggested that he could increase the benefits through unilateral executive action. Critics suggest that would be unconstitutional.

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Democrats want about $1 trillion in aid for cities and states, but Trump has dismissed that demand as a “bailout” for mismanaged states and has agreed to just $150 billion in aid for states.

Meadows said that the White House has agreed to go above $1 trillion, but that Democrats still have refused to go below $3.4 trillion. Democrats are also pushing for more money for food stamps, child care and the U.S. Postal Service as part of the plan. All of this would be paid with more deficit spending.

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Corruption

Arrest warrant issued for Rep. Will Dismukes for felony theft

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been accused of theft of property, a Class B felony. (WSFA)

An arrest warrant has been issued for Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for felony theft from a business where he worked, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Thursday.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018, Bailey said during a press conference.

Bailey said the charge is a Class B felony and levied when a person steals in excess of $2,500 and that “I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that.” 

“The warrant has just been signed, his attorney has been notified and we are giving him until late this afternoon to turn himself in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the employer contacted the district attorney’s office with a complaint about the theft on May 20, and after reviewing bank records and interviewing witnesses, the decision was made to charge Dismukes with the theft. 

WSFA reported Thursday that the theft occurred at Dismukes’ former employer, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc. in East Montgomery. Bailey did not provide any more specifics on the charge but said the employer signed the arrest warrant after countless hours of investigation on the part of the DA’s office.

While the charge stems from a complaint filed months ago, Dismukes been in the headlines recently and faced a torrent of calls for his resignation in recent weeks after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

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The event was hosted by an individual with close ties to the League of the South, a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, Dismukes stepped down from his post as a pastor at an Autauga County Baptist church but defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature.

If convicted of the felony, Dismukes would be immediately removed from his seat in the Alabama House, to which he was elected in 2018.

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In June, the Alabama Democratic Party called for his resignation over previous social media posts glorifying the Confederacy.

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