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Trump: Kudlow has 'good chance' to become top economic adviser

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE on Tuesday said Larry Kudlow has a good chance of taking the helm of the White House's National Economic Council.

Trump told reporters ahead of a trip to California that he is taking a hard look at Kudlow to replace former top economic adviser Gary Cohn.

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"I'm looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly," he told reporters on the South Lawn.

"I’ve known him a long time. We don't agree on everything," he said.

"But in this case, I think that’s good."

Trump, who argued he wants differing opinions in the White House, said Kudlow has "come around to believing in tariffs as also a negotiating point."

“I’m renegotiating great deals. Without tariffs, we wouldn't do nearly as well.”

Last week, Trump said he will impose sweeping tariffs of 25 percent on imports of steel and 10 percent on aluminum, citing national security concerns.

Kudlow, a former CNBC host who was an informal economic adviser to Trump's campaign, showed some signs that he has shifted away from his free-trade stance and his opposition to tariffs. 

Over the weekend, Kudlow called China a "key problem" for the United States and said that he's "not opposed to targeted tariffs" against the superpower.

"It’s a Trumpian way of negotiating," Kudlow said. "You knock them in the teeth and get their attention. And then you kind of work out a deal and I think that's what he’s done. My hat's off to him. He had me really worried. Now I’m not."

The decision to slap tariffs on key U.S. allies — so far, Canada, Mexico and Australia have exemptions — was enough for Cohn to finally hand in his resignation after months of speculation that the former Goldman Sachs executive would leave the White House.

Most Republicans on Capitol Hill blasted the decision as a policy that could undermine the recently implemented tax package, kill jobs and damage the otherwise red-hot U.S. economy.  

Many in the GOP called on the Trump administration to target the tariffs to areas where there are known problems, especially in the overcapacity of steel coming out of China. 

Trump has tied the completion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation to whether exemptions are maintained for Canada and Mexico. 

The president and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE suggested that the tariffs could be used as leverage to accelerate the completion of the NAFTA deal or the United States might withdraw from the agreement completely.

Canada and Mexico have said they want to update the 24-year-old NAFTA deal and won’t be swayed by threats of tariffs against their steel and aluminum industries that are heavily integrated into the North American economies to agree to a bad deal. 

But in a March 3 op-ed in National Review, Kudlow made the argument that tariffs are taxes that risk millions of U.S. jobs.

“Steel and aluminum may win in the short term, but steel-and-aluminum users and consumers lose,” he wrote with two others.

“Tariffs are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff on these commodities may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low-income families," Kudlow wrote. 

In the end, the tariffs would lead to job losses and widen the trade gap, not close it. 

"Meanwhile, up to 5 million jobs will be put in harm’s way. And if U.S. steel-and-aluminum-using industries sell less to foreigners, the trade deficit goes up, not down," Kudlow wrote.

But with Kudlow's new apparent agreement with Trump's plans to use tariffs to negotiate trade deals, the president now seems determined to keep Kudlow in the mix for a White House job.

“Larry has been a friend of mine for a long time,” Trump said on Tuesday.

“He backed me very early in the campaign, I think the earliest,” he said.

“I think he was one of my original backers. He's a very, very talented man, a good man. I think Larry Kudlow has a good chance. I'm also speaking to many others but I think Larry has a very good chance."