Economic impact of President Trump's trade agenda

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 2, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE RICK SACCONE: Some of our competitors have tilted the field a little bit. So I think President Trump is just trying to level it back out.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH: Frankly, we don't win by assessing tariffs that basically come back to bite us. So I'm disappointed.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL DIRECTOR: If you put a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, how much do you think that increases the price of a six pack of beer? Do you have any idea? A cent. One cent. I'm going to tell you a penny. How much do you think it increases the price of an automobile if all the costs are passed through? It's $45. If you look at the problems there that they're saying big price effects -- negligible price effects.

SEN. BEN SASSE, R-NE.: This is leftist economic policy and we have tried it a whole bunch of times over the last two centuries and every time American families have suffered.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, it's been quite a back and forth over the last day and a half since the president said he is going to institute tariffs on steel and aluminum. Not a lot of talk about it today obviously from the president. But a lot of tweets this morning, "When a country, USA, is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore. We win big. It's easy. We must protect our country and our workers. Our steel industry is in bad shape. If you don't have steel, you don't have a country. When a country taxes our products coming in at, say, 50 percent, and we tax the same product coming into our country at zero, not fair or smart. We will soon be starting reciprocal taxes so that we will charge the same thing as they charge us. $800 billion trade difficult ever deficit have no choice!"

We start there with our panel: Let's bring in Steve Hayes, editor in chief for The Weekly Standard; Leslie Marshall, syndicated talk show radio host, and Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz. OK, Steve, obviously a lot of pushback from allies who feel this is the wrong thing. A lot of push back from Capitol Hill. There are some allies of the president's both on the Republican side and Democratic side who say they have been waiting for this.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think a lot of us have been waiting for this in the sense that the president made obvious during the campaign that this is what he wanted to do. So nobody should be particularly surprised by his actions.

I think what is surprising is the president's language. You don't typically hear a president argue for raising tariffs by announcing that he is starting a trade war and then trying to spin his trade war as a good thing for the country. I think if you read what the president tweeted this morning, there is no polite way to put this. He doesn't understand how trade works. And he is talking about it as if it's an $800 billion loss on a ledger. That's not how trade works. We have got a long history of this. Go back to Adam Smith. You go back before.

I think that the other problem is the White House doesn't really know what its own arguments are on trade. You just saw, you just played Peter Navarro saying that this was only a $45 per car tax. If you look at the numbers that Wilbur Ross gave in a different interview talking about $175 per car tax. That's a big difference.

The total, if you use the Wilbur Ross numbers, you are talking about 17 million vehicles sold, and Scott Lincicome from the Cato Institute estimates that that's about $3 billion tax. These are taxes, these taxes will be passed onto the American consumer. It will protect the steel industry and it will hurt consumers more broadly.

BAIER: Here is the commerce secretary on CNBC today, Wilbur Ross.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: You have got to look at the job creation and the impact on American employees. America employees have borne the brunt of all the imported steel and aluminum that's been coming in. So corporate America may complain. The president is taking up the banner of Mr. And Mrs. America.


BAIER: Leslie?

LESLIE MARSHALL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He is right. When I agree with the president and some Republicans, you have to say there is something going on here that actually may be right. When we look at what has happened to the United States with manufacturing and with steel, what Wilbur Ross says is right on. And when you have American steel being used and being purchased, GM uses 90 percent American steel. But the United States imports more steel than any other country. That is problematic. We do have a trade deficit that has to be addressed.

If you have these tariffs in place you are then putting middle class workers, the very people who put the president in his position in the Oval Office in states like Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, throughout the rust belted, you are putting these people back to work.

You know, another thing, when we talk about infrastructure, people that I have spoken to say the steel that is made in China, where we get a lot of our steel from, is not the quality of the steel made here in the United States. I don't know about you, but if you ever bought those t-shirts three for 10 bucks they fall apart in the wash after one wash. I don't want to drive over bridges like that. I don't want to be in buildings like that. So I think if we're going to put America first, as the president says, this is actually a good step.

BAIER: Do you think he will get many Democrats to sign on?

MARSHALL: I do think so. I do think so.

BAIER: Let me put up the domestic steel demand by sector. This is according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. You look at the percentages, construction, automotive, machinery, energy, it essentially touches all aspects of American life. Domestic aluminum consumption, there you see transportation, packaging, construction, electrical, machinery. Obviously the beer companies and the companies that use aluminum also raising problems here.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA ANALYST: Yes, like all tariffs it hurts many industries, it helps a couple of industries. Look, Donald Trump has been talking about other countries taking America to the cleaners since the 1980s. As president he has been somewhat restrained in acting on this like by people like Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor. But now with the staff thinning out he is doing what he wants. Unfortunately for him it's over the objections, we heard over Ben Sasse there on tape, of many Republicans who have always run as free traders. It's a position, Leslie just approved it, that is obviously more approved of by Democrats. So it's another example of Donald Trump being more of an independent president who sometimes takes a middle ground position.

At the same time, we have to recognize that you can hold up aluminum can and say it's only one cent. But we're already hearing lots of rumblings of retaliation from other countries. Trade wars may be good and to the president they may be fun, but they can be complicated and they can hurt America.

BAIER: On that other issue, Chris Cox with the NRA tweeting I had a great meeting tonight, that was last night, with Donald Trump and the vice president. The president and vice president. We all want safe schools, mental health reform, and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS and VPOTUS support the second amendment, support strong due process and don't want gun control, NRA, MAGA, make America great again. Walking back again that due process comment in that cabinet open hearing, what does this say? Is there something that will move forward, do you think, Steve?

HAYES: Who knows? Honestly, I have no idea. We try to project this. We try to predict this. Talk to people in the White House. They try to predict what the president is going to say at any given time. He wasn't supposed to say or he wasn't planning on saying what he said yesterday at the pool cameras about trade. This was totally ad libbed. As Howie points out, this is something he has believed for a long time so it's not accurate for people to say this comes out of nowhere.

BAIER: Shocking, yes.

HAYES: But he wasn't planning on saying that. He certainly wasn't planning on saying what he said about gun control in the meeting, the bipartisan meeting the other day. He wasn't planning, his advisors weren't planning on him embracing Democratic talking points on immigration just a couple weeks ago. He has repeatedly said over the past several weeks things that have pleased Democrats. Now, whether he follows through on them, whether he acts on them, he sounded in comments on guns, immigration, and trade a lot more like liberal Democrat than he has a conservative Republican.

KURTZ: It is like the gun debate in that this president doesn't follow Republican orthodox playbook.

BAIER: But the fact that the NRA is coming out and providing cover now on that side, I mean, he has got all kinds of different things, talking points that are happening.

MARSHALL: And that's part of the problem. It's sort of like what day is it and what do you believe and what will he go forward with. And if we look at history, Congress has not been able to get this done, whether Republicans are in control and certainly even when Democrats are in control.

BAIER: We shall see.

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