Richard Branson: Trump's steel tariffs are 'counterproductive' for US economy

Chief Tech Correspondent
Yahoo Finance
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson contends President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs won’t benefit the U.S. economy.

“I think the tariffs are counterproductive,” Branson told Yahoo Finance during an interview this week at the Adobe Summit, held in Las Vegas. “You see what happened to the stock market when he introduced them. It sent the stock market down, although the amount he did [introduce] was relatively small. But fortunately, I think he’s now backtracked and it looks like sense will prevail.”

In early March, Trump signed orders imposing a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum, in a move he argued would protect and benefit U.S. workers and  companies. Later in the month however, the president agreed to temporarily exempt the European Union (EU) and six countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea — while the U.S. negotiates long-term plans with foreign leaders from each country. The White House has said Trump will decide by May 1 whether to extend each exemption depending on the status of those talks. 

Lawmakers from the president’s own party and leaders from around the world have warned Trump against imposing the tariffs, suggesting they could spark a global trade war that could hurt American exporters and ultimately raise costs for manufacturers that rely on a vast supply chain around the world. 

Branson, who has been critical of the Trump administration in the past, also reiterated his desire for America to transition away from coal as an energy source, which is in stark contrast to Trump, who has pledged to revitalize the struggling coal industry and create more jobs through deregulation.

“America could be powered by 100-square acres of solar in the desert,” Branson added. “Tons of jobs could be created and the increased storms, the hurricanes, the fires, all of this is stemming from more and more carbon in the air. I have an airline, and we’ve got a big responsibility to make sure you have lighter weight planes with carbon builds to make sure that we try to switch our fuel to clean energy.”

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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