President Donald Trump, energized by the new border deal with Mexico, made it clear Monday that tariffs are a key weapon in his arsenal as he moves forward with trade talks with China and other countries.
“People haven’t used tariffs, but tariffs are a beautiful thing when you are the piggy bank, when you have all the money. Everyone is trying to get our money,” Trump said during a telephone interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box. ”
Trump said his threat to impose tariffs on Mexico encouraged the country to agree to stronger immigration enforcement, and he predicted the strategy will be successful with China. The president again argued that tariffs will push companies to move jobs to the U.S.
“The China deal is going to work out. You know why? Because of tariffs. Because right now China is getting absolutely decimated by countries that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own,” Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen.
China is “going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal, ” Trump added.
Trump, who famously called himself a “Tariff Man,” has slapped duties on products from key trading partners China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union as he pushes for them to address alleged trade abuses. While a Republican Party that has typically embraced free trade has warmed to Trump’s strategy, the president has still faced resistance from lawmakers and businesses who argue the tariffs and retaliatory duties will damage the U.S. economy.
Trump walks a fine political line ahead of his 2020 reelection bid. While the president wants to follow through on campaign pledges to crack down on Chinese trade abuses, boost American manufacturing and curb the flow of migrants at the southern U.S. border, he also hopes to limit damage to voters in states affected by retaliatory tariffs.
Trump sees tariffs as an effective way to force allies like Mexico to change their behavior.
The complete details of the agreement reached between the U.S. and Mexico have not been released. In a joint declaration Friday evening, the two countries wrote that Mexico would take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico.”
The New York Times, citing officials from both countries, reported that the deal largely includes measures that Mexico had already agreed to before Trump’s tariff threat. Trump called that report a “FRAUD” and a “hit job.”
Trump on Monday also took swipes at business groups, particularly the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have criticized tariffs.
The Chamber of Commerce, Trump said, “is probably more for the companies and the people that are members than they are for our country.”
Trump’s phone call appeared to be a response to an interview on CNBC earlier in the day with Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Brilliant critiqued what he called the “weaponization of tariffs, ” which he said “is going to hurt our country.”
Foreign policy experts have also raised concerns that Trump might end up relying on tariffs too much, potentially risking America’s economic power.
“It remains to be seen — in Mexico, China and beyond — how much Trump will gain through his unique willingness to use economic weapons,” Atlantic Council CEO Fred Kempe wrote in a CNBC column. “What’s clear already is that friends and rivals are more interested than ever before in exploring alternatives to the U.S.-dominated system.”