Like President Donald Trump, the former CEO of Charlotte-based steel maker Nucor has long had a hardline stance on trade. In a CNBC interview Tuesday morning, Dan DiMicco, now a Trump trade adviser, said the U.S. has been taken advantage of for long enough.
Countries like China have cheated “behind the scenes in every trade agreement we’ve ever had,” DiMicco said on the show Squawk Box.
“Take the baseball bat out. Have it in your hand while you’re negotiating, be prepared to use it because what’s happened over the years is people say one thing and do another,” DiMicco said.
DiMicco cited unfair trade agreements as the reason for a host of issues, including the trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and stagnant wages. Putting “America first” in bilateral deals, DiMicco said, is what government should be focused on.
“People may not like that, but they’ve been benefiting by us bending over backwards ... and it’s undermined our economy and our manufacturing sector of American workers for decades now. That’s gotta stop,” DiMicco said.
Experts have warned that U.S. trade partners could retaliate with higher tariffs on American exports if proposals like a border adjustment tax are carried out. That would, they say, lead to lower profits for exporters and higher prices for American consumers.
“The impact of Trump’s trade policy will primarily be felt by lower and middle income families who are going to see rising prices on the basic consumer goods, like food and electronics, that they spend a disproportionate amount of their paychecks on,” said Mike Gwin, spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party.
DiMicco dismissed the idea of a trade war.
China has been “waging a trade war with us for over two decades” DiMicco said, citing the country’s build up of steel reserves, which flood U.S. and other markets and push domestic prices down.
“It’s time for us to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ People who say we’re about to start a trade war have their heads buried in the sand,” DiMicco said.
Before Trump nominated former Reagan administration official Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. trade representative earlier this year, DiMicco had been under consideration for the post.