Trump creates pro-manufacturing White House post, appoints trade critic

Dive Brief:

  • President-elect Donald Trump named UC-Irvine professor Peter Navarro Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy Wednesday, according to a transition team press release.
  • The position would head Trump's new White House National Trade Council, which is tasked to "make American manufacturing great again," shrink the trade deficit, and slow job flight via offshoring. 
  • Navarro has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and is known for an anti-China trade stance, as reflected in his book, "Death by China." Financial Times reports Navarro will work closely with the Department of Commerce to pursue Trump's trade agenda. 

Dive Insight:

Trump's appointment to trade-related offices indicate a commitment to following his main campaign promise: return American jobs through increased investment in manufacturing, more favorable terms of trade and strict trade enforcement procedures to close back door evasions.

First, he nominated billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Department of Commerce, making it clear the Department — not the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) — would leach much of the country's trade policy. CNBC reports Ross gained much of his fortune by investing in beleaguered steel companies, and benefited from strict import tariffs against steel. 

Now, the creation of the National Trade Council led by Navarro promises to further undermine the leverage of the USTR, by fully integrating trade decisions within White House dynamics and providing it with a national mandate. 

It must be noted Ross and Navarro helped develop Trump's trade agenda, and jointly penned a white paper to justify their policies.

The pick for USTR remains in question, and so does the role of the office given the newfound power in the other two executive posts. If the institutions are well-defined, it appears Navarro's council will be mainly responsible for coordinating economic policy with trade interests, Ross' commerce department could focus on trade enforcement, leaving the USTR to negotiate trade deals, which will remain an important function under the Trump administration.

Until the third integral piece of the trade puzzle is appointed, however, we can only speculate about the policies that may surround Trump's world of trade.

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Filed Under: Regulation
Top image credit: Max Goldberg