Gary Cohn: Key Trump economic policy adviser resigns

Written By: BBC/Hunja Macharia
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US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning, the White House has said in the latest in a series of high-profile departures from President Trump’s team.

There has been speculation that Mr Cohn, a supporter of free trade, was angered by Mr Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on aluminium and steel imports.

In a statement released by the White House, Mr Cohn said it had been “an honour to serve my country”.

The 57-year-old former president of the Goldman Sachs bank had helped Mr Trump push through his sweeping tax reforms late last year.

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Gary Cohn and President Trump were never believed to be close.

Mr Cohn wasn’t specific about the reasons, saying in a statement it had been “an honour to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform”.

Once that mission had been achieved, a number of differences may have prompted the departure, including the possible looming trade tariff war and his differences on that issue with trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

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In August last year, Mr Cohn had also criticised Mr Trump over his reaction to a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying the administration “can and must do better”.

An official said: “For several weeks Gary had been discussing with the president that it was nearing time for him to transition out.”

The exact departure date had yet to be determined

In a statement, Mr Trump said: “Gary… did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again.

“He is a rare talent and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”

Analysts were pointing to the Cohn resignation as one reason behind a drop in shares across Asia on Monday. The Nikkei was off 0.77% and the Hang Seng 1.1%.

Rick Meckler of LibertyView Capital Management told Reuters that Mr Cohn was “very credible” and the resignation announcement “certainly causes short-term downward pressure”.

The dollar continued its retreat against the yen, down from 113 at the start of the year to 105.6 on Wednesday.

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Gary Cohn was a bit of a stranger in a strange land. He was a Democrat in a Republican White House; an economic globalist working for a president who campaigned on economic nationalism. Now, it seems, Donald Trump’s protectionist bent has pushed the top administration economic adviser to the exit.

This was not an unexpected development. By many accounts, there had been a contentious White House fight over whether to impose sweeping sanctions on US steel and aluminium imports – a tug-of-war that was settled, precipitously, by the president himself last week.

There were the rumours that Mr Cohn was only sticking around to see last year’s tax bill over the finish line, after his extreme discomfort following the president’s warm words about some of the white nationalist marchers involved in violent clashes in Charlottesville last August.

Mr Cohn was reportedly viewed by many Trump loyalists in the White House as an unwelcome interloper. Some on the outside, particularly in the financial world, welcomed him as a moderating influence – along with son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka.

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Now the former is leaving and the latter two seem greatly weakened. All this could mark sharp new direction in White House policy.

He has regularly argued that other countries have been “taking advantage of” the US on trade for decades.

Trading partners reacted angrily. The EU, which says the steel and aluminium tariffs could cost it €2.8bn ($3.48bn; £2.5bn) a year, has now drawn up a $3.5bn hit list of retaliatory tariffs.

There are now fears of a global trade war. Mr Trump said on Tuesday: “When we’re behind on every single country, trade wars aren’t so bad.”

But there is disquiet at his proposals even among members of Mr Trump’s Republican party.

Possible candidates mooted by US media include Peter Navarro and Larry Kudlow, a conservative commentator and 2016 campaign adviser.

President Trump tweeted that there was no chaos at the White House but there were “still… some people that I want to change”.

A number have gone, adding to the string of senior figures who have left since Mr Trump took office.

 

 

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