Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Gary Cohn. Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

Trade has been the Trump administration's biggest internal policy fight. For more than a year, senior officials met weekly in the Roosevelt Room, and occasionally with Trump in the Situation Room and Oval Office, to hash out differences.

Gary Cohn, Trump's economic adviser until April and fellow "globalists" — a small group that included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Staff Secretary Rob Porter — were often forced into a defensive crouch, trying to beat back the hardliners' ideas in real time in front of the president.

Cohn fought hardest in these meetings, according to sources in the room, calling Navarro a liar and telling him he knew nothing about economics.

I spoke to Cohn this week about his role in challenging Navarro, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and ultimately the president over their dedication to tariffs as a tool in trade negotiations:

  • Sources say Cohn internally acquiesced to putting tariffs on washing machines and solar panels but fought tooth and nail, and ultimately resigned, over Trump's decision to impose massive tariffs on steel and aluminum.
  • Cohn said he's not opposed to tariffs in every situation, but views tariffs on inputs rather than finished goods as economically disastrous because they affect so many industries.

Cohn says flatly that trade deficits don't matter.

  • "China is producing goods, not services, that we want to buy and they're producing them cheaper than we can produce them ourselves. 
  • "The old smokestacks that we used to have in the United States in the 1950s ... have moved to China, because people didn't like working in those environments."

Cohn disagrees with the idea that America needs a domestic steel industry for its national defense:

  • He says it's unlikely America will go to war with allies like Canada from whom the U.S. imports steel. 
  • "We're not fighting a 1950s war anymore with tanks on the ground ... Look how effectively we're doing in North Korea with sanctions. Look at cyber. The computer is more powerful than any piece of steel."

Bottom line: Cohn worries that by putting tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trump will ultimately hurt American farmers and consumers, because China and other countries will retaliate by putting higher tariffs on U.S. agriculture.

Go deeper

Updated 51 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!