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Koch Groups to Spend Millions Against Trump Trade Agenda

Multi-faceted campaign includes calls for withdrawals of tarriffs

Koch-backed groups want President Donald Trump to lift tariffs on products like imported solar panels, seen here near Indianapolis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Koch-backed groups want President Donald Trump to lift tariffs on products like imported solar panels, seen here near Indianapolis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The network of political organizations associated with the Koch brothers is planning to be even more aggressive in pushing the benefits of free trade, against President Donald Trump’s more protectionist views.

According to a statement of principles accompanying Monday’s announcement of a multimillion dollar campaign, the Koch organizations will be pushing Trump to lift the new steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, as well as the previous solar panel and washing machine tariffs. They also want Trump’s administration to reverse course on a list of new tariffs to be levied on Chinese imports. 

“The Trump administration has taken some incredibly positive steps for the American economy, but tariffs will undercut that progress and needlessly hamstring our full economic potential. There are better ways to negotiate trade deals than by punishing American consumers and businesses with higher costs,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “Instead of pursuing protectionist policies that we already know don’t work, let’s help everyone win by expanding trade, opening new markets and lowering costs.”

In addition to AFP, the Koch-affiliated LIBRE Initiative and Freedom Partners plan to dedicate millions of dollars over multiple years, in a multipronged effort of paid advertising, lobbying and more grass-roots initiatives to push back against tariffs and trade restrictions.

“This campaign makes a clear statement: Trade is a major priority for our network. We will work aggressively to educate policymakers and others about the facts. Trade lifts people out of poverty and improves lives. It is critical to America’s future prosperity and our consumers, workers and companies. Tariffs and other trade barriers make us poorer,” Freedom Partners Executive Vice President James Davis said in a statement.

The statement of principles on trade released by the organizations includes an emphasis on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (rather than walking away with it) and finalizing a new pact with the United Kingdom following Brexit, when the country will leave the European Union.

The Koch affiliates also plan to push for the United States to re-join the discussions over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trump administration formally pulled out of those discussions shortly after Trump took office in January 2017.

The new campaign comes as the Koch network continues to go its own way politically. Americans for Prosperity will invest in North Dakota’s Senate race, where Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is running for re-election in a state Trump won easily in 2016. The AFP digital ad campaign will thank Heitkamp for her role in pushing the recently enacted legislation that overhauled parts of the Dodd-Frank financial services law, CNBC reported

“Congress achieved a significant milestone in lifting some of the toughest restrictions Dodd-Frank placed on small banks and their consumers. This was a bipartisan effort made possible by lawmakers like Heidi Heitkamp who put politics aside to work together,” Phillips said in a statement.

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