HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Gary Cohn, formerly President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, said he doesn't see a quick resolution to US-China trade tensions after congressional elections.
"I don't think there's an instant cure for the trade issue," Mr Cohn said at Bloomberg's New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday (Nov 7) after it was clear the Democrats would take control of the House of Representatives while the Republicans held onto the Senate.
"I wish that I could sit here and say, after the midterm elections, the White House and the administration understand they've gotta solve trade issues," he said. "I think China would like to solve the trade issue."
Asked if he could give any insight on why Mr Trump is focused on trade deficits, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc president responded: "No."
He added that Mr Trump had found "one economist on Amazon who thinks trade deficits matter, and he listens to him".
Mr Trump's move to put tariffs on US$250 billion (S$343.06 billion) worth of Chinese goods in a bid to rebalance global trade has led to retaliation from Beijing and exacerbated a raft of disputes, from human rights to US military support for the democratically run island of Taiwan.
"Topic number one for some reason is the size of the trade deficit," Mr Cohn said. "The actual trade deficit with China is about US$300 billion net and the President seems to think that number is way too large. I tend to differ with that. I tend to say that's US$300 billion worth of goods that we're buying cheaper than we could produce ourselves, because if we could produce them cheaper we would be doing that."
Mr Cohn said a more pertinent issue was access to Chinese markets, enforcement of intellectual property rights, and the forced technology transfer that China requires from foreign businesses.
"I think the Chinese would solve the first issue and buy a lot more LNG, natural gas from us, and more agriculture products, and bring down the trade deficit," Mr Cohn said.
"But it doesn't really solve the core issue, which is paying for intellectual property and respecting copyright infringement."
The New Economy Forum is being organised by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.