National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow was apparently blindsided Thursday night by President Donald Trump’s threat to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.
Asked by reporters Friday when he first learned of the president’s decision to instruct his top trade official to consider the new tariffs, Kudlow took a lengthy pause before responding: “Last evening.” The White House statement announcing the move went out shortly after 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
The former CNBC contributor and Reagan administration official has spent the past few days as a self-described “happy warrior” for Trump, who on Tuesday announced plans to hike tariffs by 25 percent on Chinese manufacturing imports and other products worth around $50 billion.
In a counterpunch on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s commerce department announced plans to level $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs on 106 imported American goods including aircraft, cars, chemicals and soybeans.
Kudlow, who early last month penned an op-ed warning against steep tariffs, has aggressively defended the president’s proposals to cable news anchors and gaggles of reporters outside the White House, attempting to calm markets and placate conservatives turned off by the seemingly anti-free trade maneuvers.
“This is not a trade war,” Kudlow said Friday. “This process, it may include tariffs at the end of the day. It may also not. It may be solved by negotiation.”