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Trump’s Top Economist Talks Tariffs, Provides Zuckerberg Fashion Advice

U.S., Chinese officials having ‘conversations,’ says Kudlow

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for his meeting with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday. Zuckerberg is on Capitol Hill to testify before the House and Senate this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for his meeting with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday. Zuckerberg is on Capitol Hill to testify before the House and Senate this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow said Monday “conversations are going on” between U.S. and Chinese officials about how to resolve their ongoing trade tiff, but he declined to say proposed tariffs definitely will be implemented.

The former CNBC host also criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg executive as he prepares to testify before lawmakers in a scandal that has dinged the company’s bottom line and raised congressional concerns about the social media giant’s role in providing data to political firms influencing the 2016 presidential campaign.

[Amid Mounting GOP Criticism, White House Shrugs Off Tariff Worries]

Kudlow would not characterize any trade talks as official negotiations, however. And he once again denied the notion that the two economic powerhouses are involved in a trade war, something even Republican lawmakers are warning GOP President Donald Trump to avoid.

“It’s sort of unfair — you’re putting the onus on us,” he told reporters who asked if the Trump administration would impose its own proposed tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to alter its tactics. “We have a strong economy. All our sectors are kicking in gear. No tariffs have been enacted. And discussions are ongoing. So that’s not a trade war.”

He also refused to clearly state that the long list of proposed U.S. import fees would go into effect short of major concessions by Chinese leaders.

“Tariffs are part of the discussions, but I cannot say there will be this, there will be that,” Kudlow told reporters outside the West Wing. “That’s up to the president. The president will make those decisions.”

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Earlier Monday, the president fired off a tweet around 6 a.m. expressing his frustration with Chinese tariffs on American-made automobiles. 

The topic is starting to seep in to the 2018 midterm elections, with farm-state GOP lawmakers urging caution from Trump and Kudlow. The White House reaction thus far has been, as Kudlow put it Friday: “Blame China, not Trump.”

“The nub of this discussion really is technology, and that China is stealing our technology,” Kudlow said Friday during a meeting with several publications, stressing the administration is pushing Beijing because technological advancements are the “future” of the U.S. economy.

“I’m not a tariff guy,” Kudlow said in that meeting, adding: “I don’t like to use tariffs … but sometimes” they are necessary.

And ahead of Zuckerberg’s testimony this week before three congressional panels about Cambridge Analytica obtaining personal data about tens of millions of its users, Kudlow on Monday offered some advice.

“Is he going to wear a suit and tie?” he quipped. “Is he going to act like an adult, as a major corporate leader? Or give me this phony bologna … hoodie and dungarees?”

On Monday, Zuckerberg showed up at the Capitol for meetings in a suit and tie. 

Watch: No Elves, No Coal: Myth-Busting the Capitol’s ‘Little Doors’

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