Trump’s former economic adviser admits his tariffs are hurting US and helping China

Gary Cohn says trade war has given Beijing ‘a very convenient excuse’ to slow its overheated economy

Adam Forrest
Thursday 01 August 2019 08:58 EDT
Trump's former economic adviser Gary Cohn admits his tariffs are hurting US and helping China

Donald Trump’s trade war is hurting the American economy while failing to damage China as intended, the US president’s former chief economic adviser has said.

Gary Cohn said tariffs imposed on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products had backfired.

“I don’t really think it’s hitting the Chinese economy,” the former White House official told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Cohn – who quit his role as director of the National Economic Council last year – claimed Mr Trump had even helped Beijing by providing “a very convenient excuse” for China to slow the breaks on its overheated economy.

“I think the Chinese economy was going to slow down with or without a trade war,” he said.

The Chinese government was able to control its economy as desired, despite tariffs, by changing the availability of credit, he added.

However, he said tariffs imposed on the US by Beijing were have a “dramatic impact” on American manufacturing and damaging job creation in the sector.

“We are an 80 per cent service economy,” he said. “The service side of the economy is doing very well because, guess what, it’s not being tariffed.”

The Trump administration slapped 25 per cent tariffs on $250bn (£206bn) worth of Chinese imports in April last year, before China retaliated by targeting $110bn in hiked tariffs on US products later in 2018.

Gary Cohn headed up the president’s economic council

The US also threatened to tax another $300bn in Chinese imports earlier this year before moving towards more conciliatory rhetoric.

Mr Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping agreed to a work on an economic ceasefire at a G20 summit in June, but talks aimed at ending the trade war have failed to forge any agreement.

Chinese and US working teams will be in intensive contact this month to prepare “good groundwork” for the next round of face-to-face trade talks in September, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday.

Negotiators ended a brief round of talks in Shanghai on Wednesday with little sign of progress.

As well as clashing on economic policy, Mr Cohn made clear his frustration with the president’s infamous “both sides” response to the August 2017 violence in the Virginian city of Charlottesville.

Mr Trump was widely criticised because many viewed his wording as equating the actions of the self-identified white supremacist groups protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee in a city park to those of counter protesters

One of those counter protesters, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed by James Alex Fields Jr who deliberately drove a car into a crowd, peacefully demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally. A further 28 were injured.

James Alex Fields Jr was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder and 29 other federal hate crime charges in June.

Mr Cohn said that “citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK”.

Asked if Mr Trump is racist, the former adviser gave the equivocal reply: “The one thing I can tell you about Donald Trump is what you see is what you get.”

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