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Billionaire Richard Branson Blasts Trump’s Steel Tariffs: “Counterproductive” for US Economy

Virgin Group founder and Billionaire Richard Branson had some critical words for President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, arguing they will hurt rather than help the U.S. economy. “I think the tariffs are counterproductive,” Branson said 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.”

Last month Trump signed orders to create a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum, arguing the move would protect U.S. workers and businesses. Later in the month, Trump backed down a step in agreeing to exempt the European Union and six other nations — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea — at least for a while as the U.S. negotiates long-term plans with each country. The White House announced that Trump will decide by May 1 whether to extend each exemption depending on the outcome of those talks. 

Republican lawmakers and leaders from around the world have pled with Trump not to impose the tariffs, fearing they could trigger a global trade war that will cripple American exporters and end up raising costs for manufacturers who depend on a diverse supply chain from around the world. 

Branson has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration in the past. He took the opportunity to reiterate his call for the U.S. to move away from coal as an energy source, which is in direct contrast to Trump, who pledged to revitalize a staggering 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.”

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Emery Reddy