Gov. Bruce Rauner acknowledged a trade war "could cause massive unemployment and job losses" in Illinois as he was touring a Schaumburg steel company Tuesday with Japanese officials who worry the White House will double down on tariffs.
The Republican governor, locked in a re-election battle with Democrat J.B. Pritzker, also backed President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Rauner joined state Sen. Tom Rooney of Rolling Meadows later Tuesday to tour a shelter in Rolling Meadows operated by WINGS, which provides housing and services for victims of domestic violence.
Japan-based Amada America Inc. fabricates sheet metal and employs about 90 people at its Schaumburg location, mostly engineers and managers.
The company gets much of its steel domestically but is facing uncertainty, Amada Executive General Manager Jeff Otten said. "We're still waiting to see what happens," he said.
Steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by Trump are a grave concern, Consul-General of Japan in Chicago Naoki Ito said, as is a new threat of similar tariffs against auto parts.
"Japan is a major investor in Illinois ... and is responsible for creating many tens of thousands of jobs," said Rauner, who added he'd voiced concerns about the policy to Vice President Mike Pence and congressional leaders while visiting Washington recently.
Republican Trump last week spoke of adding tariffs on imported autos and auto parts. That move could discourage new Asian investment in Illinois, Ito said, cautioning it could be "an alarming sign" for Japanese trading partners and companies.
Rauner said he supports Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I believe he is highly experienced and well-qualified. I hope his nomination will be voted on and approved expeditiously," Rauner said. He pushed back against critics of Kavanaugh, including activists for access to abortion, saying they were "playing politics."
"I signed legislation ... so that women's reproductive rights are protected regardless of what happens at the federal level," he said, referring to a policy that allows for state health insurance and Medicaid funding for abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois stated Tuesday that the legislation removed an immediate threat to abortion rights but didn't address the long term if the Roe. vs. Wade ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.