Gary Cohn is making a desperate effort to stop Trump’s trade war before it starts — and if he doesn’t, he may leave

  • Gary Cohn and other White House officials are trying to persuade President Donald Trump to soften his newly announced tariffs.
  • Cohn helped schedule a meeting between Trump and business executives whose companies would be hurt by the taxes on steel and aluminium imports.

Several White House advisers are making a last-ditch effort to blunt the impact of President Donald Trump’s newly announced steel and aluminium tariffs.

Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council and former Goldman Sachs executive, is part of a group of officials in the White House and Treasury Department who are attempting to persuade Trump to reconsider the tariffs, according to a new report from Politico’s Ben White, Andrew Restuccia, and Nancy Cook.

According to the report, Cohn organised a White House meeting with Trump and executives from industries that could be hurt by the tariffs, which are essentially taxes on imports. Businesses that use steel and aluminium could see costs rise as a result of the trade restriction.

Industries as varied as canned-food manufacturers and car companies have warned that the increased cost of metals could hurt their businesses and in the worst case lead to layoffs.

Many economists have warned that the tariffs could end up being detrimental to the US economy. A new study from The Trade Partnership, a consulting firm, estimated that the tariffs could cost the US economy 146,000 jobs on net.

There is also a growing worry that retaliation from other countries – including US allies like Canada and the European Union – could trigger a trade war that would spill outside the steel and aluminium industries.

According to the Politico report, Cohn and the other advisers are not relying on economic data to win over Trump, who the report said had privately expressed scepticism of economists in general. Instead, it said, they are pointing to the stock market swoon following the tariff’s announcement and backlash from Republican lawmakers to argue that Trump should soften his plans for tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminium.

If the mad scramble to persuade Trump to back down fails, Cohn may not be around the White House for long.

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev reported Tuesday that the president told other advisers he expected Cohn to depart if the tariffs were not seriously changed or reversed. This follows reports immediately after Thursday’s tariff announcement that Cohn was considering leaving the White House after failing to block Trump from imposing the tariffs in the first place.

There had long been tensions between the more free-trade-focused advisers and officials like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the White House’s National Trade Council director, Peter Navarro, who want increased barriers to trade.