Sen. Toomey: US headed down a bad path with tariffs

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 15, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know what is weird about this tariff-for-tariff fight the president is leading?

By and large, he has more support among Democrats than he does among Republicans. Republicans, generally with that laissez-faire view of keep the government out of the way, are not big fans of sort of upping the trade ante. Democrats, particularly those in areas where they feel industry has been harmed and American workers, jobs have been harmed, it's a big deal to them.

So it's kind of an upside-down world.

Let's get the read from Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey, what he makes of all of this.

It is weird. I don't know where you stand on this. But there are many of your colleagues, Senator, who are worried that this is going to backfire. Markets temporarily were as well. Are you?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R-PENNSYLVANIA: Oh, yes. I'm very worried, Neil.

I think we're heading down a bad path. And, well, you can ask them, but I have not yet discovered a Republican colleague in the Senate that thinks it's a good idea to be imposing these tariffs all over the place.

I do think that we should distinguish between the challenges, the unique challenges the China poses and the sort of ordinary commerce that occurs between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and the E.U., for instance.

But the Section 232 tariffs, I think, are a very bad idea, bad for our economy, and could lead to a really problematic cycle. And now the nature of how we're pursuing this with China is worrisome to me as well.

CAVUTO: There's many of your Republican colleagues, sir, who said that this should be written off by the Senate first, Congress should weigh in on this. The president not keen on that. Bob Corker and a lot of others are.

Where do you stand on that?

TOOMEY: So, Bob Corker and I were the ones that introduced the amendment to the national defense authorization bill that would have given Congress the final say on the imposition of the tariffs that are justified on national security grounds. They're called the 232 tariffs.

CAVUTO: Right.

TOOMEY: And, look, I think they have been misused by the administration. It is not...

CAVUTO: So, the tariffs particularly on Canada which were used under those grounds on aluminum and related products, those, you feel, were pushed for the wrong reason?

TOOMEY: Well, absolutely.

But it's broader than just Canada, right?

CAVUTO: I understand.

TOOMEY: So, certainly, in my view, it is the case that the fact that we have a modest trade surplus in the steel that we trade with Canada, that is not a threat to American national security. That's ridiculous to make that allegation.

So, it's a misuse of what is intended to be a tool in the event of a threat to national security.

But, frankly...

CAVUTO: Has the president talked to you about this, Senator?

TOOMEY: Yes. Yes.

CAVUTO: Because you and him are on the same page on a lot of stuff,but now.

TOOMEY: Not on trade.

I mean, the president and I are on the same page on many things. But when I disagree, I have let the president know. We spoke as recently as Sunday night. He called me from Singapore, because he disagrees with my position. There's no question.

But, look, I think he is mistaken. I think these are the wrong tools. And they are applied to the wrong goals. So the president's focus is to somehow eliminate trade deficits. I don't believe that the trade deficit is nearly as problematic as the president thinks.

And, in fact, in some cases, he's imposing it where there's no trade deficit, such as with Canada. So it's a bad idea, Neil.

CAVUTO: So, when you say that to the president, he always like to say, I believe in free trade as well, but these countries don't practice it.

He mentions Canada and the whopping tariffs it imposes on dairy and dairy- related products.

TOOMEY: Yes.

CAVUTO: Even though, to your point, we have run a surplus with Canada, when you include goods and services.

TOOMEY: Right.

CAVUTO: He says the same about these other countries. And he's brought to light the fact that one after the other doesn't play fair, well, of course, particularly the Chinese.

So how do you respond to a country that does that? Let's say presumably the Chinese, year in and year out, administration in, administration -- we respond in the same way. We don't.

TOOMEY: So there are different -- I think there's distinction that we have to make.

So, for instance, it's true that Canada imposes tariffs on our dairy products that would be much better off for all involved if they did not.

But it's also true that we actually have a surplus of trade in dairy products with Canada. And I'm in favor of negotiating away all kinds of protectionist measures, whether it's tariffs or subsidies. And we engage in a lot of that as well.

But I don't think that the best way to do that is through a -- this tariff war. And, in fact, it's not clear to me that that's really the goal of the Trump administration.

They want to see -- it seems they want to bring an end to NAFTA. NAFTA leaves us with pretty much a free trade zone throughout North America. There are just small exceptions. So it's not clear to me that their real goal is to have truly free trade.

CAVUTO: All right.

TOOMEY: If it were, I would be an ally.

With China, it's a whole different story, the coercive technology transfer, theft of intellectual property. We need to respond very aggressively to those things.

CAVUTO: Senator, good seeing you again. Thank you for stopping by.

TOOMEY: Good to see you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

END

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