Trump picks Taiwan-friendly economist to lead new trade council

The China Post news staff and agencies

In another sign that he intends to shake up relations with China, President-elect Donald Trump named China-hawk Peter Navarro to lead a newly-created White House council on trade.

The University of California-Irvine professor, who advised Trump during the campaign, has sharply criticized China’s economic and military policies in books and videos. In addition to leading the new White House National Trade Council, Navarro will be director of trade and industrial policy.

In a July 19, 2016 article published in the National Interest magazine, Navarro said that “America Can’t Dump Taiwan.” “This is a dangerous time because a bullying [Chinese President] Xi Jinping has responded in the worst possible way to Taiwan’s peaceful transition of presidential power — with a cut-off of diplomatic ties, punishing sanctions on trade and tourism and a steady drumbeat of hostile propaganda,” Navarro wrote in the article. “Taiwan has periodically been used by the White House merely as a ‘bargaining chip’ in a game of amoral realpolitik and ‘realeconomik’ to woo and placate mainland China,” he said.

He concluded that America should “fully and firmly recommit to an island that is indeed both a beacon of democracy and critical to the U.S. defense strategy in Asia” and “to stop sacrificing friends like Taiwan to placate what is increasingly morphing from a trading partner and strategic rival into a hostile enemy.” In a statement, the Trump transition team said the creation of the council “demonstrates the president-elect’s determination to make American manufacturing great again.”

Trump says China’s unfair trade practices are responsible for wiping out American factory jobs. U.S. manufacturers have cut 5 million jobs since 2000. Trump has threatened to impose taxes on Chinese imports and to label China a “currency manipulator” for allegedly pushing its currency lower to give Chinese exporters a price advantage.

Navarro, author of “Death By China,” also endorses a hard line toward China. Navarro has dismissed warnings that imposing sanctions on China could trigger a destructive trade war if China retaliates by targeting U.S. imports. He and Wilbur Ross — an investment banker tapped to be Trump’s Commerce secretary — have argued that China and other U.S. trade partners have more to lose in a trade conflict because they depend so much on the U.S. market.