Graham face the nation march 4 2018

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talks tariffs on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, March 4. Screenshot.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday that President Donald Trump is "making a huge mistake" with his plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Speaking on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Graham said the policy would unfairly hurt both America and its allies.

"You are letting China off the hook. You're punishing the American consumer and our allies. You're making a huge mistake here. Go after China, not the rest of the world," Graham said. 

Trump vowed last week to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum. The announcement Thursday sent major stock indexes plunging.

Over the weekend, the European Union promised retaliation against American exports if Trump follows through on the idea.

In response, Trump tweeted that the U.S. would impose tariffs on European car exports.

"If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S." Trump posted on Twitter. "They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!"

Graham said the president is picking the wrong battle.

"China is your problem, Mr. President. Taxing European car imports hurts BMW," Graham said.

South Carolina is home to several major manufacturing employers that use steel and aluminum in their products, including Boeing, BMW and Michelin.

"China wins when we fight with Europe. China wins when the American consumer has higher prices because of tariffs that don't affect Chinese behavior," Graham said.

Instead, the Seneca Republican urged Trump to have the U.S. rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which Trump removed the country from on his third day in office.

"Be present in Asia, hit them on intellectual property theft, hit them on currency manipulation, hit them about steel dumping," Graham said. "China is winning and we're losing with this tariff regime."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.