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 percent 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. 

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