Sen. Johnny Isakson Talks Tariffs, Film Industry in Atlanta

Following a meeting Wednesday with the Atlanta Council on International Relations, Sen. Johnny Isakson took questions from reporters on trade and the future of the Veterans Affairs Department, among other topics.

Charles Dharapak / Associated Press file

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said he thinks President Donald Trump’s tariffs might work out after all.

Isakson was vocally against the steel and aluminum tariffs when they were announced. He now says it appears the move may have helped, because other countries seem more willing to discuss trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I think the president’s really put himself in a position to see what he can put on the table for us to get in return for coming back into the deal. And that’s not a bad strategy if it works,” Isakson said following a meeting Wednesday with the Atlanta Council on International Relations.

Isakson said he is still working to prevent retaliatory tariffs on Georgia’s agriculture industry, noting that’s what happened when the Bush and Obama administrations added tariffs.

He said he’s also focused on making sure Georgia’s film and television industry is taken care of in the country’s trade policy.

He said he had a meeting with the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer this week, where he said he highlighted Georgia’s leadership in global film production.

“[Lighthizer] had no idea how involved Georgia was behind motion pictures being produced in the United States,” Isakson said. “So hopefully I made a point.”

Isakson said he also stressed to Lighthizer the need to protect that industry from intellectual property theft.

“We don’t want to lose it, make all these movies and make them for somebody who will steal them, make money off of them and our people get hurt.”

Isakson, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, was also asked about the future of the Veterans Affairs Department, which remains without a secretary.

He said he hopes the White House will learn from the recent nomination of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson that fell apart following many allegations about his professional conduct.

“Experience is a great teacher,” Isakson said. “I hope the experience has taught whoever is in charge of whatever part of the decision making process they’re in charge of will recognize we really need to do a thorough Q&A and vetting.”

It’s up to the White House to put forward a new nominee. Isakson said he hopes they can find someone as qualified as the previous secretary, David Shulkin, whom the president fired in March.

“I’ll be glad to help in every way I’m asked to help, but I understand rank and mine’s not high enough to give the orders,” Isakson said. “Mine’s where I take the orders.”