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Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as Trump's economic advisor

Agencies/ 15 Mar 18 | 01:11 AM

Larry Kudlow

US President Donald Trump has picked television commentator and economic analyst Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as the top White House economic advisor, the Washington Post and CNBC reported on Wednesday.

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CNBC said the announcement of Trump’s decision could come as soon as Thursday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump spoke to Kudlow, 70, on Wednesday, but she would not confirm whether he had offered him the job. “No personnel announcements," she said.

The appointment of Kudlow as director of the National Economic Council would not be a major surprise. Trump told reporters on Tuesday that Kudlow, a Republican who served as an economic advisor to former President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and also worked on Wall Street, had “a very good chance" at being selected to replace Cohn.

Kudlow, an informal advisor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, had criticised the president’s decision last week to place steep tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, saying they would harm steel-consuming producers. Cohn also opposed the tariffs. But Trump said on Wednesday that Kudlow had “come around" to view tariffs as a useful tool for renegotiating trade deals.

Trump eyes tariffs of up to $60 bn on Chinese goods

US President Donald Trump is seeking to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, two people who had discussed the issue with the Trump administration said on Tuesday.

A third source who had direct knowledge of the administration’s thinking said the tariffs, associated with a “Section 301" intellectual property investigation, under the 1974 US Trade Act begun in August last year, could come “in the very near future."

While the tariffs would be chiefly targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecoms, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products, this person said.

The White House declined to comment on the size or timing of any move.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Sino-US trade relations should not be a zero-sum game, and that the two countries should use “constructive" means to manage tension.

“We have said many times that China resolutely opposes any kind of unilateral protectionist trade measures," Lu told reporters.

“If the US takes actions that harm China’s interests, China will have to take measures to firmly protect our legitimate rights."

Trump is targeting Chinese high technology companies to punish China for its investment policies that effectively force US companies to give up their technology secrets in exchange for being allowed to operate in the country, as well as for other IP practices Washington considers unfair.                          

The Trump administration is also considering imposing investment restrictions on Chinese companies over and above the heightened national security restrictions, but details on these were not immediately known. A US Treasury spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But lobbyists in Washington expressed concern that Trump’s ambitious tariff plan would also include other labor-intensive consumer goods sectors such as apparel, footwear and toys.

Higher tariffs on these products would “hurt American families," said Hun Quach, a trade lobbyist for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “We’re not talking about fancy cashmere sweaters, we’re talking about cotton T-Shirts and jeans and shoes that kids wear for back-to-school," she added. “Alarm bells are ringing."

China runs a $375 billion trade surplus with the US and when President Xi Jinping’s top economic advisor visited Washington recently, the administration pressed him to come up with a way of reducing that number. 

Trump came to office on a promise to shield American workers from imports and his first action as president was to pull the US out of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.                    

While the tariffs on steel and aluminum, announced last week by Trump, are viewed as relatively insignificant in terms of imports and exports, moves to target China directly risk a direct and harsh response from Beijing. “If this is serious, the Chinese will retaliate. The key question is, does the US retaliate against that retaliation," said Derek Scissors, a China trade expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-business think tank. That would spook stock markets, but Scissors said that the more serious the conflict became, the worse China’s position would become.   .

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