File photo taken on Jan. 29, 2009 shows Gary Cohn at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn plans to resign, the White House said on March 6, 2018. (Xinhua/World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Sebastian Derungs)
WASHINGTON, March 6 (Xinhua) -- White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on Tuesday he was resigning, as Donald Trump's administration prepares to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Cohn, a veteran Wall Street banker, has served as President Trump's chief economic advisor since the beginning of the administration.
"It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform," Cohn said in a statement released by the White House.
Cohn struck an early rapport with Trump, and played an important role in forging the tax cut bill, which was signed into law by Trump last December.
The relationship between Cohn and Trump began to sour last summer following the president's comment on a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Cohn's dispute with Trump on steel and aluminum tariffs was the last straw that nudged him out of the White House.
Trump announced on March 1 that his administration planned to impose a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent one on aluminum, as these imports threaten U.S. national security.
Cohn, a "globalist" within the White House, has been mounting a last-ditch attempt to head off Trump's new tariff plan on steel and aluminum. He has summoned executives from U.S. companies that depend on aluminum and steel to meet with Trump.
Trump, however, reiterated his commitment to slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum on Tuesday.
"When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad," Trump said. "The trade war hurts them, not us."
Trump's new tariff plan was based on an investigation conducted by the U.S. Commerce Department. Cohn told his colleagues that the investigation report was "terrible" because it did not properly analyze the jobs that would be lost in downstream industries, U.S. news outlet Axios reported.
"Gary Cohn deserves credit for serving his country in a first class way. I'm sure I join many others who are disappointed to see him leave," Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs and Cohn's former boss, tweeted.
Trump's tariffs plan has not only split his own team, but also drawn criticism from members of Congress.
"There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into sort of a larger trade war, and many of our members are discussing with the administration just how broad, how sweeping this might be," Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Monday that he was "extremely worried" about Trump's new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and urged the president not to move forward with the plan.
The threat of escalating tit-for-tat penalties has been soaring, as U.S. major trading partners have vowed to hit back. The European Commission is preparing punitive tariffs on U.S. exports from motorcycles to Kentucky bourbon, according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.