President Donald Trump has reportedly cast aside his Cabinet’s international trade plan and is mulling a move to out-and-out economic warfare with the rest of the world, including current trading partners like China and Germany.
Axios.com said Friday that a tense Monday meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt room saw the president’s team divided into factions, the larger more moderate group and a small cabal of “America First advisers” who demanded that tariffs be placed on all imported products, including steel.
These tariffs — taxes or “duties” paid on items imported from other countries — could extend to include crucial manufacturing materials like aluminum, semiconductors, paper and household appliances like washing machines.
Among around 25 officials, the vote count was “22 against and 3 in favor — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed,” wrote Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan.
No decisions have been made, Axios said, but the president is firmly convinced that he needs to impose tariffs on imports and refuses to let it drop, against the vast majority of his Cabinet members’ advice.
“In a plan pushed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and backed by chief strategist Steve Bannon (not present at the meeting), trade policy director Peter Navarro and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the United States would impose tariffs on China and other big exporters of steel. Neither Mike Pence nor Jared Kushner weighed in either way,” wrote Allen and Swan.
The vast majority of the meeting’s attendees argued strenuously against imposing tariffs on imports, saying that the plan is bad politics and would result in economic turmoil on a global scale — impacting not just China, but U.S. relations with a number of key economic and military allies like Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
“At one point, Trump was told his almost entire cabinet thought this was a bad idea. But everyone left the room believing the country is headed toward a major trade confrontation,” said Axios.
Trump’s reasoning, a source said, is that the measure probably won’t pass, but the president’s supporters will love the idea and enjoy the stagecraft of the resulting battle.
The resulting decision is expected to be announced in the days ahead.
The White House has spent the last 24 hours in a PR tailspin over Pres. Trump’s hateful, personal attacks on the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” That story that took on new dimensions of ugliness on Friday with the revelation that the Trump White House tried to “blackmail” the hosts into publicly groveling before him or see themselves smeared in the pages of the The National Enquirer.