WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday for criticizing him over tariffs, claiming again that the threat of tariffs pressured Mexico into a new agreement to stop illegal border crossings.
"If we didn't have tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico," Trump told the CNBC financial news network.
Trump called into CNBC after an official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the president's threat to hit Mexico with tariffs – as well as tariffs he has imposed on China and other countries – was counter-productive.
“The weaponization of tariffs – the increase of threats on our economy on our farmers, our manufacturers, our consumers – is going to hurt our country," said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber. "It also creates uncertainty with our trading partners."
Trump said tariffs, and the threat of them, have brought Mexico, China, and others to the negotiating table on new trade policies.
Repeating his claim that other countries have taken advantage of the United States in matters of trade, Trump told the network that "without tariffs, we would be captive to every country."
He added: "Tariffs are a beautiful thing."
Trump also said he is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but "maybe I'll have to re-think that" in light of the criticism.
One again defending the new agreement with Mexico, Trump said that nation has agreed to take steps to stop migrants as they flow towards the United States. He again said there is more to the agreement than has been publicly announced, but did not provide specifics.
U.S. lawmakers in both parties have also criticized the president's tariff policies, and said his threats to Mexico were unnecessary.
"If past is prologue, this is likely to be one of the president’s typical, bogus solutions to justify backing off things like the tariffs," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
During his chat with CNBC, Trump also:
- Said he would impose new tariffs of China if President Xi Jinping did not agree to meet with him at a Group of 20 summit later this month in Japan. Trump added that he does expect the Xi meeting to take place, though the Chinese have yet to confirm it. The president also, again, predicted a new trade agreement with China. "You know why?" he said. "Because of tariffs."
- Again attacked the Federal Reserve over its interest rate policy.
- Deflected a question about potential antitrust investigations into Google and Facebook, but did accuse high-tech companies of colluding with Democrats against him. He also addressed the question of breaking up companies: “I think it’s a bad situation but obviously there is something going on in terms of monopoly.”
The biggest tech companies have come under increased scrutiny from regulators following concerns about user privacy and their activities during political campaigns. Some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have called for them to be broken up.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump rips U.S. Chamber of Commerce for attacking his tariff strategy