Trump Chooses China Hawk for Trade Advisory Role

Donald Trump
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the media as he arrives at a costume party at the home of hedge fund billionaire and campaign donor Robert Mercer in Head of the Harbor, New York, December 3. The head of Russia's biggest bank hailed Trump as a "president of change." Mark Kauzlarich/ REUTERS

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named Peter Navarro, an economist who has urged a hard line on China, to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council, the transition team said in a statement.

"The formation of the National Trade Council further demonstrates the President-elect'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," the statement said.

Trump made trade a centerpiece of his presidential campaign and railed against what he said were bad deals the United States had made with other countries.

The New York businessman, who takes office on Jan. 20, has also threatened to hit Chinese imports with high tariffs and angered Beijing by questioning Washington's long-standing "one China" policy.

Navarro, 67, who advised Trump during the campaign, has authored several books including "Death by China: How America Lost its Manufacturing Base," which was made into a documentary film.

Navarro, a professor at University of California, Irvine, has suggested a stepped-up engagement with Taiwan, including assistance with a submarine development program.

He argued that Washington should stop referring to the "one China" policy, but stopped short of suggesting it should recognize Taipei, saying: "There is no need to unnecessarily poke the Panda."

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

"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," Trump 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 advisor," Trump said.

In an opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine in November, Navarro and another Trump adviser, Alexander Gray, reiterated the president-elect's opposition to major trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"Trump will never again sacrifice the U.S. economy on the altar of foreign policy by entering into bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, allowing China into the World Trade Organization, and passing the proposed TPP," Navarro and Gray wrote. "These deals only weaken our manufacturing base and ability to defend ourselves and our allies."

Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of the TPP, a free-trade pact aimed at linking a dozen Pacific Rim nations that President Barack Obama signed in February. It has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. Trump has also vowed to renegotiate the NAFTA pact with Canada and Mexico, saying it had cost American jobs.

Trump plans to put his pick for commerce secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, in charge of his trade policy.

Ross, who also advised Trump during the campaign, said Navarro was "the best person" to lead the National Trade Council.

"We were a great team during the campaign, and we will be a great team during the administration," Ross said in the transition statement.