Even in the face of growing personal legal peril, Donald Trump summoned his top economic advisers to his private golf club in New Jersey for a two-hour dinner last Wednesday night to map out a trade-focused economic plan for his presidential bid.
Trump and top aides, including former senior White House officials Larry Kudlow and Brooke Rollins, as well as outside advisers Stephen Moore and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, spent the dinner discussing how Trump could attack President Biden in the 2024 election on the economy, amid a recent spate of positive economic news that has buoyed Biden’s fortunes, according to three people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private event.
Among the ideas they discussed was Trump’s plan to enact a “universal baseline tariff” on virtually all imports to the United States, the people said. This idea, which Trump has taken to describing as the creation of a “ring around the U.S. economy,” could represent a massive escalation of global economic chaos, surpassing the international trade discord that marked much of his first administration. Trump advisers have for months discussed various potential levels to set the tariff rate, and they said the plan remains a work in progress with major questions left unresolved, the people said.
On Fox Business on Thursday, the former president called for setting this tariff at 10 percent “automatically” for all countries, a move that experts warn could lead to higher prices for consumers throughout the economy and could likely lead to a global trade war.
“I think we should have a ring around the collar” of the U.S. economy, Trump said in an interview with Kudlow on Fox Business on Thursday. “When companies come in and they dump their products in the United States, they should pay, automatically, let’s say a 10 percent tax … I do like the 10 percent for everybody.”
The proposed expansion of the tariff policy, which aides said is expected to be a central 2024 campaign plank, reflects how Trump is aiming to expand the power he wielded in the White House, eyeing sweeping authoritarian measures for his second term that range from deploying the military to fight street crime to purging the federal workforce. Trump is opting not to explain this vision to voters at the first Republican presidential primary debate, being held Wednesday. Trump said he will not attend.
Economists of both parties said Trump’s tariff proposal is extremely dangerous. Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, called the idea “lunacy” and “horrifying” and said it would lead the other major economies around the world to conclude the United States cannot be trusted as a trading partner. Although aimed at bolstering domestic production, a 10 percent tariff would hurt the thousands of U.S. firms that depend on imports, while also crippling the thousands of U.S. firms that depend on foreign exports, Posen said. [Continue reading…]