'I'm a globalist': Former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn reemerges to blast Trump's trade strategy

  • Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump's former top economic adviser, spoke out for the first time since leaving the White House.

  • Cohn said he is "anti-tariff," a "free trader," and a "globalist."

  • The former Goldman Sachs executive criticized Trump's recent tariffs and said the moves are bad for the US economy.

  • Cohn also weighed in on the GOP tax law and bitcoin.

Gary Cohn, the former top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, reemerged on Tuesday in his first extensive interview since leaving the White House and criticized the president's newest trade policies.

"I think people are concerned that the economic policy from Washington is not as clear this year as it was last year," Cohn said during the interview on CNBC.

Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive, stressed that the recent rash of protectionist trade policies — including tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Chinese goods — were foolish.

"In a perfect world there would be no tariffs," Cohn said.

Cohn submitted his resignation on March 6, shortly after Trump announced the steel and aluminum tariffs. On Tuesday, Cohn reiterated his free-trade stance, calling himself "anti-tariff," "a free trader," and "a globalist."

"Globalist" was also the word Trump used to describe Cohn during a Cabinet meeting after his resignation. The term "globalist" has at times been used by far-right groups as an anti-Semitic attack on Cohn, who is Jewish.

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Cohn also argued that the tariffs' focus on supporting the manufacturing industry was misguided. The US economy is primarily focused on services, Cohn argued. By increasing the cost of goods, he said, American consumers would have less to spend on the sector that creates the most jobs.

"I believe that we are very good at doing certain things in the United States," Cohn said. "Other countries are very good at different things, we should buy what they're good at and sell them what we're good at."

In particular, the former Trump adviser took issue with the tariffs' focus on input goods or parts that are used to produce finished goods. Economists and trade experts have warned that this focus on "parts" will be particularly problematic for US businesses that rely on imported pieces to create their products.

For instance, Cohn cited the aluminum tariffs as an example of the trouble. In various surveys, manufacturers reported that the higher aluminum prices over the past two months caused uncertainty and slowed investment plans.

"We have many more tens of thousands of people in industries that use aluminum than in the aluminum manufacturing business," Cohn said.

In the interview, Cohn also said that it is too early to judge the effectiveness of the GOP tax law, but he said early signs were promising.

Cohn also weighed in on bitcoin and cryptocurrency.

"I'm not a big believer in bitcoin, I am a believer in blockchain technology," he said, adding that there will eventually be a global cryptocurrency.

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