Trump taps China trade critic to lead new WH trade council

Trump taps China trade critic to lead new WH trade council
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE is shaking up how the White House handles trade deals, appointing an anti-China trade economist with close ties to his campaign to lead a new advisory council.

Trump’s transition team announced Wednesday that Peter Navarro, a campaign and transition policy adviser and economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, will lead the new White House National Trade Council.

The trade council will advise Trump on trade negotiations and lead a program focused on buying American products and employing American workers for government projects.

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Wednesday’s announcement signals Trump’s willingness to provoke China with policy, not just campaign rhetoric.

Like Trump, Navarro has been skeptical of previous trade deals, insisting they’re abused by international competitors and stifle American manufacturing. He’s written two books critical of Chinese foreign and economic policy — "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action” and “Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World” — and he supports the Trump-proposed 45 percent import tax on Chinese goods.

Navarro wrote in a July op-ed that the import tax fits China’s history of currency manipulation and export subsidies, though imposing such a high tariff on a major trading partner has been panned by liberal and conservative economists.

“Trump will impose countervailing tariffs not just on China, but on any American trade partner that cheats on its trade deals using practices such as currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies,” wrote Navarro. “Such tariffs are not protectionist but rather defensive — and consistent with actions taken by American presidents.”

Navarro is one of the few economists who say 4 percent to 5 percent economic growth is feasible under Trump’s agenda, a claim both liberals and conservatives have laughed off.

The formation of an advisory board means Trump may take a more active personal role in negotiating trade deals, after previous signs he could siphon power from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

The announcement about Navarro highlights how the council “will work collaboratively and synergistically” with the National Security Council, the National Economic Council and the Domestic Policy Council, but it says nothing about the USTR office.

Trump has previously said that his pick for Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, would take more ownership over trade negotiations, despite the USTR’s historic role as the White House’s chief trade negotiator.

Navarro is also one of two current Latino candidates for high-level jobs. Jovita Carranza, a former deputy at President George W. Bush’s Small Business Administration, met with Trump on Tuesday and is being considered for USTR.