Trump Adviser Calls Reduced China Tariffs 'Christmas Present to the Nation,' Despite Claiming They Didn't Hurt Consumers

Peter Navarro, who serves as President Donald Trump's director of trade and manufacturing policy, referred to the White House's decision to hold off and forego some additional tariffs on Chinese imports as a "Christmas present to the nation," despite previously claiming that the tariffs were not having any impact on American consumers.

"So, yesterday we had a big bump up on the market with President Trump's Christmas present to the nation, with his announcement on tariffs," Navarro said in an interview with Fox News' America's Newsroom on Wednesday. The trade adviser, who has been criticized by many leading economists for encouraging Trump's propensity for tariffs, was attempting to explain why stocks had again dipped one day following the news that the government would not implement the full amount of new levies on Chinese goods that the president had previously threatened.

"This is basically the Federal Reserve's problem, volatility" Navarro argued, repeating a popular criticism Trump has used to explain dips in the market. "They are causing this," he continued, saying the ups and downs were due to the reserve's chairman Jerome Powell previously raising interest rates. However, Powell announced a rate cut at the end of last month.

Navarro and Trump have repeatedly over the past few months insisted that U.S. consumers are not feeling the extra costs resulting from tariffs on Chinese goods. Asked by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace earlier this month whether the costs were being passed on to American consumers, Navarro responded by saying: "false."

The trade official argued that Chinese manufacturers were decreasing prices significantly to compensate for the additional import levies, allowing U.S. businesses to pay essentially the same price as before trade tensions escalated last summer. But as Wallace pointed out, that assessment goes against the data of leading U.S. financial institutions and counter to reporting by Trump's own administration. Wallace explained that data from Trump's Labor Department showed that "on a macro and a micro level that tariffs cause consumer prices to rise."

A May report published by Goldman Sachs assessed that: "The cost of U.S. tariffs have fallen entirely on U.S. businesses and households, with no clear reduction in the prices charged by Chinese exporters." Additionally, a recently published study from scholars at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve found that the cost of tariffs on Chinese goods have "fallen largely on the U.S." with a "nearly complete" transfer of additional costs to American importers.

Nonetheless, Trump and Navarro had continued to insist that tariffs are only being paid by China. That claim changed slightly this week when the administration announced its decision to forgo and hold off on threatened additional tariffs.

Trump and Xi
President Donald Trump arrives for a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 29 BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

"We're doing this for the Christmas season," Trump told reporters on Tuesday. "Just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers," who would be doing extra shopping for the holiday. However, the president then pivoted to say: "So far, they've had virtually none."

Since last summer, the Trump administration has levied tariffs on $250 billion of China's exports to the U.S. Earlier this month, the president said that the White House would go ahead and target the remaining $300 billion of Chinese products with additional 10 percent tariffs, which would be increased over time to reach 25 percent.

Although that threat has now been partially walked back, there is no clear end in sight to the ongoing trade war with China. Trade representatives and negotiators from both sides remain in communication, but some analysts believe Beijing prefers to wait and see how the 2020 presidential election goes before making significant concessions to Washington.

Trump Adviser Calls Reduced China Tariffs 'Christmas Present to the Nation,' Despite Claiming They Didn't Hurt Consumers | U.S.