Koch network takes on Trump’s tariffs with six-figure ad buy as billionaire admits tensions could boil over

  • The political network funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is unveiling the latest phase in a multi million dollar campaign against import tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump.
  • "American farmers work hard to put food on our tables but because of new tariffs our farmers livelihoods are at risks," the ad says.
President Donald Trump on July 26, 2018. 
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
President Donald Trump on July 26, 2018. 

The political network funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is unveiling the latest phase in a multi million dollar campaign against import tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump, CNBC has learned.

Freedom Partners, one of the groups that is part of the larger network, is announcing a six-figure television ad campaign entitled "Trade not aid," which describes that importance of trade and the harm tariffs have on the farming community. The news was announced on the second day of the Koch network donor summit in Colorado Springs.

Beyond the ad's attempt to highlight the vital role of the agricultural sector, it also questions Trump's recently announced $12 billion aid package to help farmers.

"American farmers work hard to put food on our tables but because of new tariffs our farmers livelihoods are at risks," the ad states. It later concludes by saying: "Farmers want trade, not aid."

Trump recently announced import tariffs on a variety of goods coming from China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico. Many of those critical trading partners have retaliated with billions of dollars' worth of trade barriers of their own against exports coming out of the United States.

In addition, Freedom Partners, along with two other network organizations in Americans for Prosperity and The LIBRE Initiative, sent a letter to Trump. The groups called on him to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while congratulating the administration's economic policy achievements of tax reform, reducing financial regulations and inching toward an agreement with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker about removing the tariffs.

The groups argued, however, that if the U.S. doesn't agree to go back into the TPP, the 11 other original countries who are still part of it will forge ahead with their rebranded Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Such a move could put American businesses at a disadvantage, it added.

"As a practical matter, once the CPTPP is in full effect American businesses will be at a distinct competitive disadvantage when trying to sell in these markets and our consumers will miss out on lower-priced goods," the letter stated.

The new ad buy and letter to the president comes the same day as Koch admitted in a rare press briefing that a full blown trade war could be on the horizon.

"If it's severe enough it could," Koch said when asked about whether Trump's protectionist policies could result in a trade war.