Brushing off public concern from top Republicans in the Congress, President Donald Trump on Tuesday once more made clear that he is ready to slap new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports coming into the United States, saying he thinks the U.S. can survive any trade battles with other nations, as the President’s top economic adviser – who refused to support the tariffs – resigned his post.
“Trade wars aren’t so bad,” the President said at a joint news conference with the Prime Minister of Sweden, again making the argument that the United States has let other nations too often grab an economic advantage in trade deals.
“The United States has been taken advantage of by other countries – both friendly and not so friendly – for many, many decades,” Mr. Trump said, pointedly saying that the European Union has been one of those winners.
“One of the reason I was elected is that I’m protecting our workers, I’m protecting our companies,” the President said.
Speaking specifically about the European Union, the President said if Europe retaliates against new tariffs, then he would slap a 25 percent tariff on cars produced in Europe, and sold in the United States, the second time he has made that trade threat.
On Capitol Hill, it wasn’t hard to find a Republican lawmaker expressing alarm about the President’s jawboning on trade, as they said a trade war could undermine economic progress from recent tax cuts.
“There is a lot of concern among Republican Senators that this could metastasize into a larger trade war,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
One idea gaining traction among Republicans on Capitol Hill was to urge the President to apply the tariffs to certain countries – like China.
“I think the smarter way to go is to make it more surgical and more targeted,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“The President’s instincts are right,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “He wants a level playing field out there.”
“My hope is this is a negotiating tactic,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). “I would be much more attuned to targeted tariffs.”
Asked at his news conference about how the tariffs would be applied, the President said it would be done in a ‘loving way.’
“A loving, loving way. They’ll like us better, and they will respect us much more,” Mr Trump declared.
Late on Tuesday, the internal dispute within the Trump White House over the President’s tariff plans claimed a staff victim, as top economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned; Cohn had been opposed to the effort, like many GOP lawmakers in Congress.
“Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” the President said in a written statement, which did not mention the tariff issue.