Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow expressed support Sunday for President Donald Trump’s enthusiastic pursuit of tariffs on China, saying that so long as tariffs are “targeted,” the actions are valid.
Kudlow, whose comments walked back his previous pre-White House characterization of tariffs as a “regressive tax on low-income families,” was responding to a question from anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” about whether he agreed with Trump’s tweet last week that “Tariffs are the greatest!”
“You know, if they’re targeted for good purpose, as per China, I think the answer is absolutely yes,” Kudlow answered.
Kudlow further remarked that his support for targeted tariffs has “always” been his view.
“Most free traders agree China has not played by the rules, and the trading system is broken largely because of them,” he said.
Last week Trump defended his pursuit of tariffs against China as well as allies around the world on Twitter.
“Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs. It’s as simple as that - and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the ‘piggy bank’ that’s being robbed. All will be Great!” his tweet said.
While Trump touted an agreement last week between the US and European Union to reduce tariffs and barriers to trade following several weeks of escalating trade tensions, his trade war with China was having a negative impact elsewhere.
The administration unveiled $12 billion in aid last week for farmers hurt by Chinese reprisals targeting Trump voters, which are already having a painful impact on US soybean and pork exports.
Still, Kudlow touted the booming US economy overall on Sunday, saying the President deserves credit for recent economic victories, including 4.1% economic growth in the second quarter of the year – the best showing since 2014, and unemployment lower than it has been for decades.
“I think the President deserves a victory lap,” Kudlow said. “Low tax rates, rolling back regulations, opening up energy … trade reform, which I think is already paying off with respect to the EU agreement we did last week. The fundamentals of the economy look really good.”
Critics, however, say Trump’s tax cuts may not filter down significantly to blue-collar Americans and are certain to widen economic inequality. The GOP’s tax cuts and a bipartisan agreement to increase spending could explode the deficit, according to Congressional Budget Office projections, and wage growth – long the downside of the recovery since the Great Recession – is still fairly flat.
Kudlow warned against blaming Trump for economic tensions and to “give him a chance to get the policy in place.”
“He inherited a completely broken world trading system, including a World Trade Organization, most particularly China, but not only China,” Kudlow said. “He’s trying to fix it. Other US presidents in both political parties, Dems and Republicans evenhanded, have never pushed the way he’s pushing.”
CNN’s Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.