WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, a Wall Street banker who opposes hefty steel and aluminum tariffs planned by U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Tuesday that he was resigning.
“It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform. I am grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the Administration great success in the future,” Cohn said in a statement issued by the White House.
His departure as director of the National Economic Council came after a little more than a year on the job.
Following the news of Cohn’s departure, the U.S. dollar weakened, while an exchange-traded fund tracking the broad market S&P 500 dipped 1 percent.
Trump’s announcement last week of his plans to impose the tariffs sent U.S. stock prices tumbling and came after an intense debate within the White House between Cohn and other advocates of free trade, on one side, and protectionist advisers such as Peter Navarro on the other, White House sources said.
Cohn, a former president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs, was seen as a bulwark within the White House against protectionist policies. Business lobbyists frequently cited Cohn as their strongest ally in the White House.
“Gary Cohn is one of the true Wall Street all stars behind the Trump tax plan. He will be missed. We thought he might switch mid-term and become the Treasury Secretary. He is that good,” said Andrew Brenner, the head of international fixed income at NatAlliance Securities LLC.
Trump Threatens EU With "Big Tax" On Cars AgainU.S. President Donald Trump reiterated on Tuesday his plan to slap big tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, warning the European Union it would get hit with a “big tax” for not treating the United States well when it comes to trade.
“They make it almost impossible for us to do business with them and yet they send their cars and everything else back into the United States,” Trump said of the EU at a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, whose country is an EU member.
Trump said the EU was taking advantage of the United States on trade, adding: “They can do whatever they’d like, but if they do that, then we put a big tax of 25 percent on their cars - and believe me they won’t be doing it very long.”
Trump said on Friday he would impose a duty of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, a plan that sparked cries of foul from U.S. trading partners and warnings from U.S. lawmakers and businesses of the potential for a tit-for-tat trade war that could hurt the U.S. economy.
Trump repeated his belief that the United States could win such a war, since it was running such a large trade deficit.
“When we’re behind on every single country, trade wars aren’t so bad,” he told reporters at the White House.
Lofven offered a warning of sorts to the U.S. president, saying: “I am convinced that increased tariffs hurt us all in the long run.”
Trump held out the prospect that close U.S. trading partners Canada and Mexico could avoid the steep tariffs if they reached a deal with the United States in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“But again, (with) other countries, we won’t have that choice. Unless they can do something for us,” he said, adding that the EU could find relief if it lowered barriers to U.S. products.
“Then we can start talking,” Trump said.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Peter Cooney