On Friday, Peter Navarro, the director of the White House national trade council, defended President Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel by citing Trump’s win in the 2016 Republican primary.
Navarro reportedly played a leading role in persuading Trump to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, which Trump unexpectedly announced his intention to do in a Thursday meeting with steel and aluminum executives at the White House.
During a Fox News interview with Navarro on Friday morning, host Sandra Smith pointed out to him that many Republicans oppose this tariff plan, citing concerns about U.S. jobs and prices.
Navarro seemed somewhat offended that Smith would even mention the widespread pushback to the idea — before dismissing these concerns by citing Trump’s primary win.
“Here’s the reality — in 2016 the president ran against 16 other Republicans. All of them were opposed to his trade policies, they were all, quote, ‘free traders’ who don’t care about the American manufacturing workers,” Navarro said. “The president stood up for them, he ran on that, he got elected on it.”
During another part of the interview, Navarro dismissed concerns among auto manufacturers about tariffs raising the cost of production, and hence prices for consumers, as “fake news.”
“They spin. The fake news, they put all this hyperbole out about massive price effects,” Navarro said, ignoring that this “hyperbole” is in many cases coming directly from businesses.
MillerCoors statement: We are disappointed with President Trump’s announcement of a 10% tariff on aluminum. While we won’t know the details for a week, the Department of Defense recently reported that aluminum does not cause any national security issues. (1/3)
— MillerCoors (@MillerCoors) March 1, 2018
MORE: Toyota says U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel will adversely impact automakers, suppliers, consumers pic.twitter.com/G26o2rpwF5
— Reuters Politics (@ReutersPolitics) March 2, 2018
Navarro went on to make a case that the price effects of the tariffs will be “negligible.” His argument echoed a similar line of argument offered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on CNBC on Friday morning.
“There’s about one ton of steel in a car,” Ross said. “The price of a ton of steel is $700 or so, so 25 percent on that would be one half of 1 percent price increase on the typical $35,000 car. So it’s no big deal.”
But a price increase that “negligible” to someone as wealthy as Ross may be a big deal to someone else.
It only raises the price of a car by $175. Just crumbs! https://t.co/4mQcRCteSI
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) March 2, 2018
Numerous outlets have reported that Navarro and Ross led the effort to persuade Trump to implement tariffs.
According to the Washington Post, “the trade decision signaled the marginalization of White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who had argued against tariffs for months but was outmaneuvered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade adviser Peter Navarro.”
Trump’s announcement sent the stock market into a tailspin that began Thursday and continued into Friday. But during his Fox News interview, Navarro dismissed that as well.
“Smart money’s buying, Sandra,” Navarro said, after Smith mentioned that that the Dow Jones dropped more than 300 points in Friday morning trading.