Agriculture chief talks Trump trade differences, Cohn departure

Agriculture chief talks Trump trade differences, Cohn departure
© Getty Images

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueHouse Democrat asks USDA to halt payouts to Brazilian meatpacker under federal probe From state agriculture departments to Congress: Our farmers need the USMCA Overnight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry MORE speaks in a new interview about his differences with President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE on trade while commending the president’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn for his "honorable" departure from the administration.

During a visit to North Dakota on Friday, Perdue told the Forum News Service in an interview published by The Bismarck Tribune that he has voiced the agriculture community's concerns about trade issues to the president.

Perdue recalled a recent conversation with Trump about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when Perdue said he had a coughing fit. When Trump asked if he was all right, Perdue responded, “I just get choked up when you start talking about withdrawing from NAFTA.”


Perdue told Forum that he has been encouraged by Trump’s recent views on rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Trump campaigned against. This week, 11 Pacific Rim nations signed the pact without the U.S.

“This is a president who is willing to change his mind,” Purdue said.

The Agriculture secretary said he wasn’t interested in talking about any “moral line” he may have concerning what action Trump would need to take to lead him to leave the administration. Instead, he commended Cohn for leaving his post as director of the National Economic Council in a “fairly honorable way.”

Cohn announced his resignation on Tuesday after weeks of speculation and Trump’s announcement that he would be implementing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, something that Cohn had lobbied aggressively against.

On Thursday, Trump signed his plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. There is fear that the tariffs will cause other nations to retaliate, triggering bilateral responses that culminate in a trade war.

Mexico and Canada, the two other signatories of NAFTA, have been exempted from the tariffs, while Trump has left open the possibility that other nations could also be exempted, such as Australia.