GOP Gov. John Kasich, who is undecided on another White House run, rips Trump's tariffs for 'creating a division with our friends'

  • Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’s running for president again in 2020.
  • However, he’s letting it be known that he doesn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s trade tactics.
  • “We have to be careful that we’re not fraying relationships that have kept us peaceful, safer,” he says.

Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, hasn’t yet decided whether he’s running for president again in 2020, but he’s letting it be known that he doesn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s trade tactics.

Most notably, he takes issue with the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, key U.S. allies. They have since responded with retaliatory measures.

And Trump's imposition of tariffs isn’t an isolated move; it came after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Accord, took unilateral action on Iran and created friction at the recent meeting of the G-7 leaders, Kasich told CNBC on Monday.

“We’re creating a division with our friends who have kept the peace for 70 years in this world,” he said on “Power Lunch.”

“We have to be careful that we’re not fraying relationships that have kept us peaceful, safer,” he added. “That includes free trade.”

Kasich, who is in his second term as Ohio governor, said he still hasn't made up his mind about running for president in 2020. On Monday, when asked if he’s decided, he responded, “I don’t know.” Term limits prevent Kasich from running for a third term as governor.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R-OH)
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Ohio Governor John Kasich (R-OH)

In April, CNBC reported Kasich met privately with billionaire investor and private philanthropist Ron Burkle, who has a reputation for donating to candidates and causes across the political spectrum. It’s unclear whether a 2020 bid was discussed at the meeting.

Meanwhile, close allies of Kasich have reached out to prominent GOP donors to gauge their interest in backing the Republican against Trump, sources previously told CNBC.

In March, Kasich said, “All of my options are on the table” when asked about a run, according to Politico. Kasich was among the candidates who lost to Trump during the 2016 GOP primary battle for the party's nomination.

Kasich’s trade comments on Monday follow a Financial Times op-ed published last week.

He wrote, “America’s first war, for its independence, began with ‘the shot heard round the world’. Sadly, the latest one — a trade war supposedly in defence of US economic independence — is beginning with a shot to the foot.”

Trump’s tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on Friday. China then fired back with retaliatory tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and pork.

Trump also expects to soon add a further $16 billion in tariffs and will consider up to hundreds of billions of dollars more in duties.

Kasich told CNBC on Monday that the U.S. is sending its allies mixed messages.

“On one hand we’re beating up our allies, and on the other hand we want them to help us in regard to China,” he said.

He said China’s trade infractions should be dealt with through the World Trade Organization.

“We don’t want them stealing our secrets," Kasich said. "We don’t want them cheating, but that’s why we created this international trade organization that reduces friction and gets people in a position where we can all be more successful.”

— CNBC’s Brian Schwartz and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.