President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday the creation of a White House National Trade Council and named China hawk Peter Navarro as director of the new office.
The move, including putting the author of the book “Death by China” in charge of the trade council, signaled Mr. Trump’s intention to pursue get-tough trade policies that were a centerpiece of his campaign.
Transition team officials said the formation of the National Trade Council demonstrated Mr. Trump’s “determination to make American manufacturing great again and to provide every American the opportunity to work in a decent job at a decent wage.”
Mr. Navarro, an economist at the University of California, Irvine, is renowned for challenging free trade dogma. The transition team described him as a visionary who will develop trade policies that shrink the trade deficit, expand economic growth and help stop offshoring of U.S. jobs.
He will be tasked with advising Mr. Trump on strategies in trade negotiations and assessing U.S. manufacturing and other industrial capabilities, as well as identifying new opportunities for unemployed Americans in the skilled manufacturing sector.
The National Trade Council will also lead the “Buy America, Hire America” program for government procurement and federal projects.
Mr. Trump ran on trade issues, vowing to challenge what he described as unfair trade practices by China. But Mr. Trump’s critics said he was tempting a trade war with one of America’s largest trade partners.
Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, applauded the choice of Mr. Navarro.
“For far too long, China has pursued what can only be described as a mercantilist trade policy that [has] greatly impacted American jobs, productivity and its economic fortunes. Peter is one of the only economists to speak on these issues and will be a force for change and truly ensure when it comes to trade policy America’s interests will be first,” he said.
Mr. Trump also announced that billionaire investor Carl Icahn has agreed to serve as a special adviser on regulatory reform, another sign that he is taking action on his economic agenda.
Mr. Icahn, who had been an adviser to Mr. Trump during the campaign, shares the president-elect’s opposition to federal regulations that they say kill jobs and stifle economic growth. He helped craft Mr. Trump’s economic agenda and can be expected to contribute to plans to aggressively roll back federal regulations promulgated under Mr. Obama.
Mr. Trump vowed that for every new regulation created by his administration, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
Mr. Navarro helped develop Mr. Trump’s economic policies during the campaign. His White House title will be assistant to the president and director of trade and industrial policy.
“I read one of Peter’s books on America’s trade problems years ago and was impressed by the clarity of his arguments and thoroughness of his research,” the president-elect said in the statement. “He has presciently documented the harms inflicted by globalism on American workers, and laid out a path forward to restore our middle class. He will fulfill an essential role in my administration as a trade [adviser].”
“I am deeply honored for the opportunity to serve the president-elect and this nation and to advise on policies to rebalance our trade, rebuild our industrial base and restore America’s comprehensive national power by making America great again,” said Mr. Navarro.
During the campaign Mr. Navarro worked with Commerce Secretary-designee Wilbur Ross to develop Mr. Trump’s trade and economic agenda, including a focus on bringing back America’s manufacturing industry.
“Peter Navarro is the best person President-elect Donald Trump could have chosen to head his National Trade Council,” said Mr. Ross. “We were a great team during the campaign, and we will be a great team during the administration.”