Fighting against Trump’s trade war from within

As a candidate, Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, rattling manufacturers who preach free trade. Shortly after the election, Trump announced a 35 percent tax on companies that moved jobs overseas. And now, Trump shows little sign of backing off an escalating trade war, using the blunt instrument of tariffs to bludgeon China and other countries while U.S. manufacturers seek cover from foreign retaliation.

But as other executives and trade associations take a public stand against the president, the National Association of Manufacturers and its president, Jay Timmons, have struck a close — if still uneasy — partnership with Trump, betting it’s wiser to be on the inside than out as the administration wages a risky fight with the global business community.

You can scream and yell all you want. I’ve never particularly found that to be effective,” Timmons said in an interview, when asked about corporate pushback on Trump’s tariffs. “We have somebody who is in office who has had a very specific view of the world when it comes to trade—for four decades—so he’s going to do what he’s going to do.”

Timmons has emerged as an unlikely Washington power center under the Trump administration, enjoying easy West Wing access and a bond with a president whose tactics have unnerved NAM’s largest members even as Trump plays industry booster on a national stage.

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