The former prime minister of the United Kingdom — and the man whose decisions in office lit the fire for Brexit, Britain's withdrawal from the European Union this year — used his presence at the NADA Show on Sunday to urge the United States not to resort to tariffs and alienate its world allies.
David Cameron addressed dealers as a keynote speaker, advising the auto-industry audience not to make a "false choice" between nationalism and engagement with the rest of the world.
"I don't think you'll make America great unless you continue to make the world great," Cameron said.
Cameron, 53, from 2010 to 2016 was the youngest prime minister in Britain in nearly 200 years. But his tenure at 10 Downing Street ended shortly after an overwhelming personal defeat: the June 2016 vote by a slim majority of U.K. voters to leave the European Union.
Britain completed its withdrawal from the EU on Jan. 31, after a long and divisive political struggle.
Cameron has kept a relatively low profile since he stepped down, but he published a personal memoir in September entitled For the Record.
Cameron told dealers he understands protectionist tendencies that might lead some to support tariffs.
But he added: "Tariffs are a very blunt weapon, and I think that's the wrong approach" to trade disputes with other nations. "We should try to take tariffs down around the world," instead of erecting new ones.
He said dealers could learn valuable lessons about running their businesses from the experience he gained in office.
Leaders of all types "can make difficult decisions if you take people with you" by explaining your thinking over and over again, he said. But every leader must make time in their busy schedules to ponder.
"Time is the most difficult thing to get hold of when you're in leadership," Cameron told the dealers. "As leaders, you need to make time just to think."