Trump threatens to leave US Chamber of Commerce over tariff criticism

June 11, 2019

President Donald Trump threatened to personally withdraw from the world’s largest business organization on Monday, slamming the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for failing to support his trade policies and American workers.

“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,” Trump said.

Not-so-brilliant analysis

The president called CNBC’s Squawk Box early this week after the network interviewed Chamber of Commerce head of international affairs Myron Brilliant, who bashed Trump’s tariff policies.

“Well I guess he’s not so brilliant,” Trump quipped. “Look, without tariffs, we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years.”

To underscore his point, Trump cited his country’s $800 billion annual trade deficit with foreign countries. U.S. companies have been subjected to predatory tactics from hostile economic competitors such as China, which has engaged in intellectual property theft and unfair subsidization policies for decades.

The Trump administration has embraced tariffs as a foreign policy tool to level the global playing field. In May, Trump approved 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, and he recently used the threat of tariffs to spur Mexico to impose stricter immigration controls on its own borders.

“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.

A dying breed

Although tariffs haven’t been used by world leaders as a cohesive national policy since the early 20th century, Trump has no problem using them to force concessions from economically weaker countries. As the world’s greatest consumer, it is impossible for any country to emerge victorious in a trade war with the U.S.

“I just want to say to the United States Chamber of Commerce, if we didn’t have tariffs, we wouldn’t have made a deal with Mexico. We got everything we wanted. And we’re going to be a great partner to Mexico now. Because now they respect us, they didn’t even respect us​,​” Trump said.​

Many economists aren’t as optimistic as the president, and they view the application of tariffs as mutually destructive for modern nations. The Chamber of Commerce shares this criticism.

During his CNBC appearance, Brilliance blasted Trump for pursuing the “weaponization” of trade policy. He said import taxes ultimately hurt the U.S. economy, especially farmers and consumers, and damage relations with foreign trading allies.

“Simply put, tariffs are a tax on American consumers and businesses,” a statement from the organization’s website reads. “Tariffs are the wrong approach to address unfair trade practices.”

Trump, however, accused the Chamber of Commerce of protecting its own interests, rather than those of the American people. His recent diplomatic victory with Mexico seems to have affirmed his belief in the power of raising taxes on foreign imports.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.