After tariff fight loss, Trump economic adviser Cohn quits

WASHINGTON: Mr Gary Cohn, the top economic adviser to US President Donald Trump and a voice for Wall Street in the White House, said on Tuesday he would resign, a move that came after he lost a fight over Mr Trump's plans for steel and aluminium import tariffs.

The departure of Mr Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, is expected to be finalised in a few weeks and will blow a hole in Mr Trump's depleted advisory team.

Officials said Mr Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, and conservative commentator Larry Kudlow were the "top two candidates".

White House officials said the tariffs dispute contributed to Mr Cohn's decision to leave but it was not the sole reason.

One official cited several issues and noted: "His biggest mission was on the tax cut Bill, which he got passed."

It was the latest in a series of high-profile White House departures, which Mr Trump downplayed on Tuesday.

When asked at a news conference about high staff turnover, Mr Trump said: "Many, many people want every single job... I could take any position in the White House and I'll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there."

Mr Cohn did not show up for the news conference, despite a seat being set aside for him.

Following the news, the US dollar weakened and US stock futures fell more than 1 per cent, with analysts citing increased uncertainty about the US economic agenda.

"One of the adults in the room has left. The markets will worry that this is a signal that we will go ahead with these tariffs," said Mr Paul Mortimer-Lee, chief market economist at BNP Paribas corporate and investment banking.

Without Mr Cohn in the picture, Mr Navarro, an economist, will likely find it easier to pursue a protectionist agenda.

Mr Trump said last week he would impose import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.

The White House senior staff under Mr Trump saw a 34 per cent turnover rate last year, compared with first-year turnover rates of 9 per cent under former president Barack Obama, 6 per cent under president George W. Bush and 11 per cent under president Bill Clinton, according to a Cowen & Co analyst. - REUTERS