"His proposals aren't viable, they're not practical, and they're hypocritical — to be honest," she said, referring to his call for Nabisco to bring Oreo production back from Mexico, while many of his own clothing lines are produced offshore. "There's no question that we have a terrible disadvantage right now because our trade policies have failed, but obviously he's talking about policies that would be outside of all our current trade agreements and trade rules."
For Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Trump has rightly identified the problematic imbalance of trade between the U.S. and countries like China — but the real estate magnate's tariff proposals are just treating symptoms, not the real problem of big government, over-regulation and the lack of savings spurred by Fed policy.
Schiff said he agreed with others that Trump's tariffs would hurt many Americans in the short term, spiking prices, squeezing companies, increasing layoffs and deepening recession. But just as critically, that near-term pain would not be sufficient to renew America's manufacturing base.
"Protectionism works when you have an industry to protect, but when industry is gone, it's just higher prices," Schiff said, explaining that there are few U.S. firms ready to supply Americans with the goods they've come to expect from Chinese sources.
Even CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, who has endorsed Trump's tax plan, warned last year that the candidate's "protectionist" trade proposals could backfire.
But some have cheered Trump's proposals. In a note Thursday, Peter Morici, an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, said the candidate's tariff suggestion "makes sense."
"Trump's proposed tariff on imports to force China to revalue its currency and renegotiate its trade practices is hardly reckless," he said, citing a similar prescription from liberal quarters.