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Rauner: Tariffs ‘can cause massive unemployment’

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Japanese Ambassador to the United States tour a machine parts facility in Schaumburg. | Adam Thorp/For the Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner discussed the threat posed by escalating trade disputes with the the Japanese ambassador to the United States on Tuesday at a machine tools facility in Schaumburg.

“We … talked about tariffs, and the importance of making sure we don’t break out in a full trade war, how tariffs can cause massive unemployment, job losses, around the world and here in Illinois,” Rauner said.

Rauner said he told Ambassador Shinsuke J. Sugiyama in a private meeting that he had cautioned Trump administration officials to avoid a “tariff war” during a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Rauner said he also discussed announcements of additional investments and hiring by Japanese firms in Illinois with the ambassador.

After their talk, Rauner and Sugiyama toured a showroom for Amada America, Inc., a Japanese-owned producer of sheet-metal machine tools. The visit was part of the “Grassroots Caravan Tour” of Japanese investments in the Midwest organized by Naoki Ito, the head of Japan’s consulate in Chicago.

The ambassador had just returned from Japan for Secretary of State Pompeo’s swing through Asia, following a round of negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear program. He told local dignitaries that his trip to Schaumburg was a welcome contrast from that “dismal” topic.

“This is really the best part of my life as a Japanese envoy,” Sugiyama said.

Managers at the facility said they were in a “wait and see” position regarding the impact of newly imposed tariffs on their own business — their prices for raw materials had not gone up, but their customers had concerns. Navigating the uncertainty had been “interesting,” Executive General Manager Stephen Keating said.