Top trade adviser leaving White House

Clete Willems, a top White House trade adviser, will leave his post in the coming weeks, the administration announced Friday.

Officials said Willems was taking a job in the private sector in order to spend more time with his young family; he is the father to a new baby girl. He served as deputy director on the White House’s National Economic Council.

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“It has been a great honor to serve the president in this White House for the last two years,” Willems said in a statement. “President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE’s leadership on trade has entirely changed the global conversation and will lead to an international system that is more free, fair, and reciprocal.”

Willems was a lead trade negotiator at the Group of Seven and Group of 20 summits and was closely involved in efforts to broker a trade agreement with China, sometimes sitting in for National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow during negotiating sessions in Beijing.

“As my top international deputy, Clete has helped the president change the global conversation on trade and make exceptional progress in negotiations with China, the EU, Korea, and reform of the international trading system,” Kudlow said in a statement. “We will miss him and wish him all the best.”

Willems's departure comes at a precarious time, as the prospects for a deal with China have grown uncertain. A summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled for late March has been pushed back to April.

Willems, a former Capitol Hill staffer, was seen as a counterweight to trade hawks like Peter Navarro.

Kelly Ann Shaw, who currently serves as special assistant to the president for international trade, investment and development, will replace Willems.

Willems’ departure was first reported by CNBC.