President Donald Trump has received extraordinary criticism for his use of tariffs as an economic tool against America’s trading partners to correct imbalances, particularly following his recent threat of tariffs on imports from Mexico to spur concessions on border security and illegal immigration issues.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an institution that has stood vocally opposed to Trump’s use of tariffs, but Trump just threatened to cancel his own membership if it persisted in being incapable of recognizing and accepting the success of his tactics to economically strengthen the United States.
Trump fires back
President Trump called in to CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday in response to an interview earlier in the day with Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who warned that Trump’s “weaponization of tariffs” would ultimately “hurt our country.” Asked for his response to what had been said, the president joked about his critic’s name and replied, “Well, I guess he’s not so brilliant.”
“Look, without tariffs we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years, that’s why we’ve had an $800 billion deficit for years,” he said. “We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible and the U.S. Chamber is right there with them.”
“And I’m a member of the U.S. Chamber, maybe I’ll have to rethink that, because when you look at it, the chamber is probably more for the companies and the people that are members than they are for our country, because without tariffs we would be absolutely — outside of something I won’t even mention — we would be absolutely at a competitive disadvantage the likes of which you’ve never seen,” he added.
Tariffs as bargaining tool
“People haven’t used tariffs, but tariffs are a beautiful thing when you’re the piggy bank, when you have all the money and everyone’s trying to get our money — China — and the China deal is gonna work out. You know why? Because of tariffs, because right now China is getting absolutely decimated by companies that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own, because they don’t want to pay the tariffs,” Trump said.
Following some discussion about the recent deal struck with Mexico to avoid the threatened tariffs, the conversation shifted back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Trump said of Brilliant, “He’s protecting companies that are members … he’s not protecting our country.”
“He’s doing a very big disservice, and frankly, I’ve never had support from the U.S. Chamber of Congress because they know where I stand on these things,” he said. “I don’t need money, I don’t care how things are, the only thing I care about is our country, and he’s protecting all of those companies that are members that like it just the way they are, and they have companies in Mexico and they have companies in China.”
Chamber’s skewed priorities
President Trump proceeded to reference the U.S. Chamber of Commerce several more times throughout the nearly 30-minute interview, and at one point said directly, “If we didn’t have tariffs, we wouldn’t have made a deal with Mexico.”
Trump took one final shot at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the interview ended, and said, “They have to start representing the United States, not just the companies that are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was once viewed as an institution that stood up in defense of American businesses and workers. However, over the years, that institution has come to embrace the multi-national, globalist view of the economy that has prevailed over the past couple decades to the detriment of American businesses and workers.
Trump’s economic nationalism poses a threat to that globalist view, hence the sharp criticisms, but Trump quite obviously isn’t swayed by the opposition and intends to keep using whatever means are at his disposal — including tariffs — to improve America’s competitive stance in the world economy.