Peter Navarro, an economist, business professor and forthright critic on China, was assigned by Donald Trump on December 21, 2016 to head the National Trade Council that is newly set up by the Trump administration. Navarro's positions as Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy are not subject to Senate confirmation. 

Navarro, 67, graduated from Tufts University in 1972 and joined the Peace Corps in Thailand for three years before earning an MBA in 1979 and a PhD. in Economics in 1986 from Harvard. For more than 20 years, he has been an Economics and Public Policy professor at The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California-Irvine. As the only academic among Trump's billionaire advisers, Navarro has no experience working in the government and found little success in running for office. He ran for mayor of San Diego in 1992, ran again for the House of Representatives four years later and last campaigned for the San Diego city council in 2001. 

Navarro dedicated years of research on economic forecasts and the geopolitical landscape for businesses and institutions. Alongside his professorship, he worked as a corporate trainer for clients such as Marriott, Wells Fargo Partners, John Hancock, Lima Peru Chamber of Commerce, and the FBI, according to his personal website. He has appeared on major media outlets, including Bloomberg TV, BBC, CNN, CNBC and 60 Minutes on CBS News. He has also published multiple books on business, management and the markets, such as "The Well Timed Strategy," "When the Market Moves, Will You Be Ready?" and "What the Best MBAs Know."

China's growing prominence as a global economic power piqued Navarro's research interest when in the early 2000s he noticed the trend where job prospects of business school graduates at Irvine were hurt by globalization, The New York Times reported. Since then, he has written extensively about China with his latest bestseller is "Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World" published in 2016. Among his books on China, "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action" received the most attention and was reproduced into a documentary in 2012. (See also: Under Trump Will China or Mexico Fare Better?)

Navarro has argued that China is "waging an economic war" through export subsidies, import restrictions and currency manipulations. In 2011, Navarro wrote a letter to Trump about his book “Death by China,” The New York Times reported. His criticisms about China eventually helped him land a job in the Trump administration. In the 2016 presidential election, Navarro served as the Republican candidate's campaign adviser on economic issues.

Trump said in a statement that Navarro is "a visionary economist" who will "develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores," according to The New York Times. Trump has threatened to impose a tariff of as high as 45% on Chinese imports if Beijing refuses to alter existing trade and manufacturing policies that are deemed unfair to the U.S. 

Navarro's appointment is emblematic of a "division" among Trump's economic advisers between those in support of and in opposition to free trade, according to The New York Times. Navarro and Wilbur Ross, who will oversee trade, push for trade restrictions while the broader adviser team, which includes Carl Icahn, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson and Terry Branstad, are strong advocates of trade. 

Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

On Mar. 1, 2018, Trump announced that the U.S. would impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imports of aluminum. Early reports framed the tariffs as being aimed at China, and the announcement earned a quick rebuke from Chinese officials, who accused the Trump administration of violating World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

The real outrage came from Ottawa and Brussels, however, which threatened to retaliate – European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker specifically mentioned slapping tariffs on blue jeans, motorcycles and bourbon. According to IHS Global Atlas, China is not among the top 10 sources for U.S. steel imports by volume. Canada is the largest source, providing 16% of total steel imports. Responding to claims that the tariffs would harm U.S. industries and consumers, Navarro told Fox, "There are no downstream price effects on our industries that are significant." He added that effects on consumer prices would amount to a couple of cents on "a six pack of beer or Coke."

On Mar. 5, Trump tweeted that the proposed tariffs would "come off if a new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," referencing U.S. trade deficits with Canada and Mexico (including services, the trade balance with Canada is positive), flows of drugs from Mexico, and Canadian treatment of U.S. agricultural exports.

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