Chamber of Commerce hits Trump on ‘weaponization of tariffs’ – and then Trump calls CNBC to fight back


President Donald Trump is right to pressure China to change its protectionist trade and business practices, but he should not be using tariffs to do it, a top official at the world’s largest business lobbying group said Monday.

Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that Trump should never have used the threat of tariffs to try to force Mexico to crack down on illegal immigration, especially with ratification of the new USMCA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, pending in Congress.

“The weaponization of tariffs – the increase of threats on our economy, on our farmers, our manufacturers, our consumers – is going to hurt our country. It also creates uncertainty with our trading partners,” said Brilliant, suggesting the Mexico situation might send the wrong message to China that the U.S., even if it makes a trade deal as in the case of the USMCA, may still come back later and hold tariffs over their heads. “The world is watching,” he added.

Shortly after Brillant’s interview, Trump called into “Squawk Box” to argue his case for why tariffs are effective. The president also blasted the Chamber of Commerce.

Trump told CNBC on Monday that the business group protects corporate America not the American people. The president also said tariffs allow the U.S. to level the playing field, claiming he believes that China will make a deal with the U.S. “because they’re going to have to” due to tariff pressures.

“If we didn’t have tariffs we wouldn’t have made a deal with Mexico,” Trump also said, touting the agreement he announced late Friday on the ways Mexico promised to help stop migrants from entering the U.S. illegally across the border that the two countries share in exchange for tariffs not going into effect.

WATCH: Trump to CNBC: Tariffs are a beautiful thing when you’re the piggybank