(Bloomberg) -- Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn’s widely divergent opinions on trade with President Donald Trump have spilled into the public view.
Cohn’s decision to quit as Trump’s top economic adviser in March was partly because of his opposition over imposing tariffs to punish unfair trading practices. The former Goldman Sachs executive warned, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, that imposing levies on imports could drive up prices and harm the heavily services-dependent U.S. economy.
“I’m anti-tariffs,” Cohn said. The U.S. relies on consumers “to buy goods as cheap as they possibly can to spend their money on services or savings,” he said. “If we artificially raise the price of goods because of tariffs we are hurting our service economy.”
Trump has imposed duties on everything from solar panels to steel shipments this year in a bid to stem American job losses and the decline of industry. The president is also threatening to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion of Chinese goods if ongoing talks fail to negotiate better terms of trade with the world’s second-largest economy, raising fears of starting a trade war.
“People are concerned that the economic policies are not as clear this year as they were last year,” said Cohn. “I don’t think anyone wants a trade war, no one wins in a trade war.”
Cohn helped Trump steer tax cuts into law last year but proved unpersuasive on trade, where Cohn was a stark counterpoint to nationalists and economic populists in the administration.
In the interview Tuesday, Cohn said he’s still weighing all the options for his next career step. “I’ve made absolutely no decisions yet on what’s next for Gary Cohn.”
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