Bernie Sanders: Trump's trade wars are "totally irrational"

Sanders told CNN on Sunday that Trump's "irrational" trade wars are "destabilizing the entire world economy"

By Matthew Rozsa

Published August 25, 2019 3:45PM (EDT)

Happy Donald Trump and Sad Bernie Sanders (Getty/Justin Merriman/Win McNamee)
Happy Donald Trump and Sad Bernie Sanders (Getty/Justin Merriman/Win McNamee)

During a Sunday appearance on the CNN program "State of the Union," 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont denounced President Donald Trump's trade policies as "totally irrational" and "destabilizing the entire world economy."

"That is one tool that you have," Sanders said during his Sunday appearance on "State of the Union" when asked about Trump's use of tariffs against China. "What the president is doing is totally irrational and it is destabilizing the entire world economy. You do not make trade policy by announcing today that you're going to raise tariffs by X percent, and the next day by Y percent, by attacking the person you appointed as head of the Federal Reserve as 'an enemy of the American people,' by denouncing the president of China who last year you really loved as a great leader. This kind of instability and irrationality on the part of the president is causing very serious harm to the world economy."

After he was asked if he supported the use of tariffs in a broader sense in order to protect America's economic interests, Sanders said that he did — but on the condition that it was part of a logically coherent trade philosophy.

"Yeah, of course, if it is used in a rational way within the context of a broad, sensible trade policy," Sanders explained. "It is one tool that is available. What we need is a — You're looking at somebody, by the way, who helped lead the effort against permanent normal trade relations with China and NAFTA because trade policies that we have had in the past have lost us millions of good paying jobs, and were written by large corporations at the expense of workers and farmers. We need a rational trade policy today, not what Trump is doing by tweet."

Trump seemed to express regret for his aggressive trade policies toward China on Sunday, but the White House quickly backpedaled away from those sentiments.

"I have second thoughts about everything," Trump told reporters during a breakfast meeting in France with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham later walked back that comment by releasing a statement saying that "this morning in the (meeting) with the UK, the president was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China.' His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher."

On Friday Trump implied that he had the power to order American companies to leave China, tweeting that "our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA. I will be responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon. This is a GREAT opportunity for the United States." He later added that "for all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!"

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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