Flake Blasts Trump on Trade Strategy and NATO

(Bloomberg) -- Senator Jeff Flake delivered a blistering attack on President Donald Trump’s trade policy and approach to U.S. allies, saying he’s “baffled" that fellow Republicans aren’t pushing back harder against him on tariffs and accusing the president of undermining longstanding American relationships.

"Protectionism is something he’s come back to like a homing pigeon," Flake told reporters at the Capitol. "There are very few principles that he sticks with and that’s one of them."

He predicted Congress eventually will act to rein in the president’s authority on trade.

Trump has announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and this week said his administration would impose a new round of 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as part of an escalating dispute with China over intellectual property and trade policy.

Flake of Arizona isn’t seeking re-election this year, and he’s become increasingly critical of Trump, who in turn has taunted him as someone who couldn’t win another term.

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the senator also blasted Trump’s insults and accusations against allies during a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“Sometimes if I didn’t know better, I might say that we are purposefully trying to destabilize the Western alliance and turn the world upside down," Flake said.

Flake told reporters he disagrees with his colleagues who’ve wanted to give Trump a bit more leash on trade in hopes of getting a better deal in trade talks. He predicted that within a month or so lawmakers will agree on a binding measure to block some tariffs sought by Trump. The president has based recent tariff actions on a need to protect national security.

"We have the power to stop him," Flake said.

Flake said the effects of a trade war could be long-term as China and other countries start buying products like soybeans and manufacturing supplies from other countries with long-term contracts.

"Everybody who’s gone to the White House and come back detects no strategy there at all. None," Flake said. "It’s just, basically, throw at the wall and see what happens."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.