'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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White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, right, speaks with Hope Hicks, White House director of strategic communications, before a moment of silence with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in remembrance of those lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Trump is presiding over his first 9/11 commemoration on the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn stands before a moment of silence in the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
National Economic Council director Gary Cohn (L) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speak during a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Gary Cohn, the director of the U.S. National Economic Council, smiles during the Group of Thirty (G30) International Banking Seminar in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. The seminar takes place to coincide with the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group. Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(L-R) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn leave notes at the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
National Economic Council director Gary Cohn listens during a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn sits with other administration officials for a news conference with Kuwait's Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (L) and economic adviser Gary Cohn take part in a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Gary Cohn, U.S. President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, steps from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump waits on the line as he call Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland to congratulate him for his victory, accompanied by Director of the White House National Economic Council Gary Cohn and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) and Director of the White House National Economic Council Gary Cohn (L) attend a dinner hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (not pictured) at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn waits to speak during the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Cohn discussed the administration's plans for reforming the tax code. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: (L to R) Homeland Security Director Tom Bossert and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn arrive for the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Cohn discussed the administration's plans for reforming the tax code. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks with Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, before a moment of silence with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in remembrance of those lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Trump is presiding over his first 9/11 commemoration on the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 5: Richard Kalbacher and Gary Cohn attend Sixth Annual Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink Benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation at Fairview on Mecox Bay on August 5, 2017 in Bridgehampton, NY. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, left, speaks with Ivanka Trump, assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, before a moment of silence with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in remembrance of those lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Trump is presiding over his first 9/11 commemoration on the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 5: (L-R) Jason Binn, Ryan Seacrest, Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn and Gary Cohn attend Sixth Annual Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink Benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation at Fairview on Mecox Bay on August 5, 2017 in Bridgehampton, NY. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: National Economic Council chairman Gary Cohn stands at the North Portico before President Donald Trump travels to Iowa from the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
FILE: Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, left, speaks with Ivanka Trump, assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, before a moment of silence with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in remembrance of those lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. New Yorks banking regulator has asked Deutsche Bank AG and a pair of local lenders to provide information about their relationships with Jared Kushner, his family and the Kushner Cos., according to people familiar with the matter. Kushners financial and business ties have been of consistent interest for potential conflicts given his broad portfolio as senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. Our editors select the best archive images on Kushner and his family. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: Gary Cohn, White House Economic Advisor (R) and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster brief reporters on President Donald Trump's upcoming trip to the World Economic Forum later this week in Davos Switzerland, at the White House on January 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L), National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn (C) and advisor Stephen Miller follow US President Donald Trump as he walks from Marine One to the White House January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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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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