President of Koch-backed group calls Trump tariffs “misguided”

Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), says that his organization believes the Trump administration’s imposed steel and aluminum tariffs are “misguided.” 

“Our message, both privately to the administration and publicly is: You’re doing a lot of good things economically that’s helping improve people’s lives. Thank you for that,” Phillips told CBSN’s Elaine Quijano on “Red & Blue” Wednesday. “But don’t undermine it with a misguided trade war and these protectionist tariffs.”

Despite AFP’s conservative leaning, the organization is campaigning against the 25 percent tax on steel imports and 10 percent tax on aluminum imports, which the Trump administration announced in March. While Phillips praised President Trump’s economic record, he said that the “trade war” resulting from the tariffs “risks undermining all the progress that’s been made.”

“It’s a bad approach,” he said. “We have urged the administration to change course and we’re really heartened to see Congress starting to step in now and say, ‘Wait a minute, Congress has a constitutional role when it comes to trade policies for this country.'”

AFP has “significant disagreement” with the Trump administration on the issue of tariffs, but said that they’ve maintained “a productive relationship.” 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a nonbinding resolution by a vote of 88-11 calling for Congress to have a more prominent say over trade penalties imposed in the name of national security. The vote is widely seen as a protest to the Trump tariffs. 

Phillips said that the imposed tariffs are “too strong a unilateral action” and made the case that the power to make sweeping tariff decisions should be more diffuse. Ultimately, he praised Congress’s recent bipartisan efforts on the matter.

“Politicians of neither party, of neither ideology, are qualified to be able to pick winners and losers in an economy this complex,” he said. “The law of unintended consequences steps in, it begins hurting real folks here. Americans from all walks of life are going to be, and are already being, hurt by these tariffs and this trade war.”

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