President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that trade wars hurt America's opponents, and not the United States.
"When we're down by $30 billion, $40 billion, $60 billion, $100 billion, the trade war hurts them, it doesn't hurt us," Trump said.
The president made the remarks at a press conference with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden. Last week, Trump unexpectedly announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.
Following announcements in recent days by U.S. trading partners who say they will retaliate against any new tariffs, Trump said: "We'll have to see," if the tariffs spark a trade war.
"When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad," Trump said, apparently referring to the U.S. as being "behind" due to trade deficits. Yet the United States does not have a trade deficit with "every single country," as Trump frequently claims.
"In some cases, we lose on trade plus we give them military, where we're subsidizing them tremendously," Trump said of certain countries, without naming them. "So not only do we lose on trade, we lose on military."
Any U.S. trade protections will be done "in a loving, loving way," Trump said. And the end result will be that countries "like us better, and they will respect us much more."
Trump's unexpected announcement of planned tariffs last week put him at odds with both his fellow Republicans in Congress and with the corporate CEOs who have long been some of the president's most consistent supporters.
"There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday. He added, "there's a high level of concern about interfering with what appears to be an economy that's taking off in every respect."
Trump was initially scheduled to meet later this week with major U.S. companies opposed to the proposed tariffs. But that meeting was reportedly put on ice late Tuesday, following the resignation of Gary Cohn, who left his position as director of the National Economic Council.
Cohn's departure had long been rumored, but it was hastened by Trump's tariff announcement. A staunch advocate for free trade, Cohn was the highest ranking White House official openly opposed to Trump's tariff plan.
This story has been updated to include the departure of Gary Cohn.