Trump's tariffs can't save the dying steel and aluminum industry: Bush aide

  • Carlos Gutierrez says steel and aluminum jobs have been in a long decline ever since they peaked in 1953.
  • "And to suggest that we're going to bring back these industries is a little naive," the former Commerce secretary tells CNBC.

President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs can't save the dying steel and aluminum industry, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told CNBC on Monday.

Gutierrez, who headed the Commerce Department from 2005 to 2009 under then-President George W. Bush, said steel and aluminum jobs have been in a decline ever since they peaked in 1953.

"And to suggest that we're going to bring back these industries is a little naive," Gutierrez, now chairman of Albright Stonebridge Group, told "Squawk Box." "Why is it that you're focused on bringing back industries that have been in a decades-long decline instead of creating new industries?"

"It's the way of the world," added Gutierrez, who was also the former chairman and CEO Kellogg.

Bush tried steel tariffs of as much as 30 percent on imports in 2002. But the levies were quickly lifted — less than two years into a planned three-year run — because of threats of relatiation from European trading partners.

Trump announced plans on Thursday for tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium products, sparking fears of a trade war and sending the stock market into a tailspin. The next day, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that Trump's tariffs are "no big deal."

In a tweet Monday, Trump signaled that his tariffs may not be implemented, at least for Canada and Mexico, if a "fair" NAFTA agreement is negotiated. Ministers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico meet on Monday to wrap up the latest round of NAFTA talks.

Trump's actions are protectionist, Gutierrez said, adding that policy style has never really worked. "It's not good for the global economy," he said.

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