Jan 19, 2020 - Economy & Business

Gary Cohn says Trump tariffs on China "totally hurt the United States"

President Trump's former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday that he thinks the president's tariffs on China "totally" hurt the United States, and that he doesn't believe they have helped achieve a different "outcome" with China.

The exchange:

BRENNAN: Can the president say, 'Look, people may not like my tactics, but I got this done?' Was he ultimately right? Were you wrong?
COHN: They can say that. I don't think we would have gotten to a different outcome. I don't think the tariffs helped us get to any different outcome.
BRENNAN: Did it hurt the U.S.?
COHN: I think it has hurt the U.S. I think it's totally hurt the United States.

Driving the news: President Trump and China signed 'phase-one' of a deal this week meant to ease tensions stemming from a two-year trade war.

  • Axios' Dion Rabouin notes that while the limited agreement will roll back some U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and see China increase purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years, experts say it leaves more questions than answers.
  • For example, the agreement does not spell out what goods China will buy or how it will reach the targets of $200 billion of increased spending on agriculture, energy, manufacturing and services.

The backdrop: Many speculated that Cohn, who favors free trade and was often at odds with the populist factions of the Trump administration, resigned over Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Cohn didn't confirm that's why he left, but told CBS that he "didn't think the steel and aluminum tariffs were helpful to the economy."

  • "We'd accomplished a lot, and at the end of the day, he was going a different direction on some of the trade negotiations than I would have gone," Cohn said.

Go deeper: The "phase one" deal isn't all that it seems

Go deeper