Trump's tariffs show you get what you voted for

REUTERS  Thomas White  Illustration /File

Departures are normal after a President's second year, but the circumstances of Mr. Cohn's leave-taking as top economic adviser are anything but normal after only 14 months. But Trump's protectionist policies and unpredictable approach to policymaking have made a once prestigious gig unpalatable for many.

Free trade also enables companies to buy things like steel and aluminum from overseas at lower costs, meaning they can charge less for their products - developments that may be reversed under a trade war.

"We're comfortable that we're going to manage through this so that it is not detrimental to our growth projections", he told Fox Business.

Critics say Trump has undercut his own justification for the tariffs by linking them to NAFTA.

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But if the WTO affirms Trump's justification for tariffs, it could encourage other countries to follow the US example: They could use national security as a pretext for tariffs of their own. Put differently, who in the community of free-market economic specialists would take the job now?

While the full economic impact remains unknown, the political fallout was swift with the top Republican in Congress Paul Ryan publicly denouncing Trump's move, and vowing to push him to narrow its focus to "countries and practices that violate trade law". "I am grateful to the president for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the administration great success in the future".

It was Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, who persuaded President Donald Trump to make a conciliatory speech on trade at the Davos Forum in January, while hinting that the U.S. might rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Off the cuff Last week Trump stunned the world - and his own aides - with an off-the-cuff announcement of his plan, even before White House lawyers judged the legality of the tariffs.

Trump's early appointments to key Cabinet positions and to the White House policy-making apparatus were often stellar. If Trump chooses to hit China hard, and China responds aggressively, the risk of a wider, economically damaging trade war would sharply escalate. "I'm sure I join many others who are disappointed to see him leave".

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When he initially decided on the plan, he reportedly said that the 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum would apply to all countries, because otherwise, everyone would ask for an exemption.

Trump linked the exemptions for Canada and Mexico to progress on renegotiating NAFTA to favour the United States.

But imposing broad tariffs on steel and aluminum imports had the odd effect of hurting producers in friendly countries the most, since China is not a major exporter of steel and aluminum to the U.S., compared with Canada, South Korea, Brazil and Mexico.

His staff hollowing out and his agenda languishing, President Donald Trump is increasingly flying solo.

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