McCain rips Trump on tariffs

McCain rips Trump on tariffs
© Greg Nash

Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainManchin, Donnelly back Pompeo This week: Senate barrels toward showdown over Pompeo Romney forced into GOP primary for Utah Senate nomination MORE (R) on Thursday issued a statement condemning the Trump administration's move to implement 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports.

The longtime Arizona senator predicted the decision will "harm the American economy" and "hurt American workers."

McCain issued the statement just after the White House officially implemented the tariffs first proposed by Trump last week.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRand's reversal advances Pompeo New allegations could threaten Trump VA pick: reports President Trump puts on the pageantry for Macron’s visit MORE’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will not protect America," McCain wrote. "Reminiscent of failed protectionist trade policies of the past, this decision will harm the American economy, hurt American workers, and damage relations with America’s allies and partners."

The free trade proponent went on to blast Trump for not targeting China for committing trade abuses, while instead levying tariffs that hurt America's allies and risk a global trade war.

"President Trump compounded that mistake by forfeiting the opportunity to take targeted action to hold China accountable for its behavior in international trade. Instead, he chose to adopt sweeping tariffs that will punish our most important allies and partners all around the world," he wrote.

"This strategic mistake will only succeed in undermining the credibility of American leadership on free and open trade."

McCain, a frequent critic of the president, closed his statement urging Trump to pursue a "better way," and negotiate free trade deals with other nations from a place of strength.

"There is a better way. America should engage on trade from a place of leadership, demonstrating confidence and strength. We should champion a positive free trade agenda to break down trade barriers and open new markets for American companies," he said.

Trump's tariff proposal was almost uniformly criticized by Republicans including House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWatchdog group sues for donor list from Ryan-aligned nonprofit Terminating Budget Committees not as absurd as it sounds The writing is on the wall for bump stocks and Congress should finalize it MORE (R-Wis.), but the president's congressional allies were unable to convince him to drop the plan.

The AFL-CIO issued rare praise for the Trump plan, however, with the group's president, Richard Trumka, applauding Trump on Twitter.

"Tariffs won't start a trade war, there's 435 of them in place today to fight trade cheaters. People may not like how Pres Trump rolled these out, but I applaud him for trying," Trumka wrote.