By Alan Murray and David Meyer
March 7, 2018

Good morning.

Global markets reacted badly to the resignation of Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn—and with good reason. Cohn was a critical architect of business’s biggest victory under Trump—the $1.5 billion tax reform/tax cut—and he was the strongest bulwark against the global CEOs’ greatest nightmare—a trade war. With Cohn out of the picture—and with the president’s business advisory panels disbanded—there is good reason for markets to fear the president will feel free to pursue the kind of protectionist policies that he has been advocating for the last two years.

In the aftermath of the resignation, the president took to Twitter to say that he “will be making a decision soon on the appointment of new Chief Economic Advisor,” adding that there are “many people wanting the job.” One of the first names to be floated was Peter Navarro, whose protectionist views were kept in check by Cohn and former cabinet secretary Rob Porter, but who has now been unleashed. Even if the job goes to a more business-friendly candidate, it’s hard to imagine that advisor will have the clout Cohn did. While he and Trump disagreed on many issues, the president respected him because of his successful business career, and tolerated their disagreements. It’s hard to imagine a successor will have similar ability to keep the President’s protectionist tendencies in check.

The trade fight may move to Capitol Hill, where House Speaker Paul Ryan and others are urging the President to take a more “surgical” approach to his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. But for now, “urging” is all Congress can do. The law gives the president clear authority to impose the tariffs, without the approval of Congress.

I’m watching this drama unfold from Singapore, where Brainstorm Design continued Wednesday. Among the speakers today was WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey, who told the group how his background growing up in a communal family of unwed mothers, and cofounder Adam Neumann’s background growing up on a kibbutz, helped shaped their views of how to design a more supportive and social workplace environment. You can read more coverage from Brainstorm Design here.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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