The Senate’s No. 2 Republican criticized President Trump ’s pro-tariff chief trade adviser Friday, saying he “has a lot of wrong ideas.”
The comments from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) came amid a discussion on Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports announced Thursday and their impact on the oil and natural gas industry.
“We just need to stick close to the people that are talking to the president,” Cornyn said in a session at CERAWeek, a major annual conference in Houston that brings together top figures in the oil industry. “I’m sad to see [chief economic adviser Gary] Cohn leave, and the ascent of Mr. [Peter] Navarro, who I think has a lot of wrong ideas when it comes to trade.”
Navarro is a vocal advocate of protectionist trade policies, as was Trump during his presidential campaign.
Cohn announced this week that he would leave the White House, shortly after Trump announced the planned tariffs. Navarro is expected to take a larger role in the White House with Cohn’s departure, but has said he is not in the running to replace him as director of the National Economic Council.
Cornyn said he hopes Trump officials “can be a little surgical in the approach” to trade, and wants the president to back away from his focus on trade deficits as the “end-all be-all” of trade relationships.
The oil industry has joined businesses across the economy in raising alarm over Trump’s tariffs, which will put a 25 percent tax on imported steel and a 10 percent tax on imported aluminum.
They warn that in areas like pipeline construction, drilling equipment and other infrastructure projects, the tariffs will add significant costs to their operations.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), at the same event as Cornyn, said the tariffs threaten Trump’s mission to increase domestic energy production. She cited as an example a natural gas export project planned for Alaska, which she estimated could cost $500 million thanks to the tariffs.
“These are real numbers. This has real impact,” said Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “And at a time when, again, we’re trying to build out on that energy promise that we have, whether it’s up north or elsewhere around the country, this is not coming at a good time for us.”