Director of the White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro said there was “no way” China would be granted Market Economic Status by the Trump administration, Friday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Market Economic Status is an economic distinction the U.S. Department of Commerce grants to indicate that a nation does not artificially inflate or deflate the prices of its exports in order to gain an unfair trade advantage.
“They will move at Trump Time. They will not move in Obama Time. Trump Time is fast time.”
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Navarro was asked by Ingraham whether the Trump administration would consider lending the distinction, one China has lobbied for at the World Trade Organization for years, in exchange for other concessions from the communist nation.
“That’s such an important issue, Laura, because there’s no way that we would ever bend on that,” Navarro, an assistant to the president and the director of trade and industrial policy, said. “China is not a market economy. No way.”
The flat assertion from Navarro indicated the administration is committed to retaining a tough-on-China stance, even amid worries that economic considerations are taking a back seat to foreign policy concerns in the region.
“There’s no bend in our backbone on [market economic status],” Navarro continued.
“If we were to grant them that, it would basically gut and gore our ability to impose countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties on a country which engages in those two practices at a level worse than any other country in the world,” Navarro said. “So that’s non-negotiable, as I understand it.”
The economic adviser to President Trump also hammered senate Democrats’ “unacceptable” obstruction of Robert Lighthizer’s confirmation as U.S. Trade Representative, saying the “slow-walking” from lawmakers has slowed progress on trade priorities.
“We’ve been slow-played by Congress,” Navarro said. “On day 12 of this administration, the president informed congressional leaders of his intent to renegotiate [the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement], and he called it correctly ‘one of the worst trade deals we’ve ever signed.’ That started the fast-track process.”
“What should have ensued at that point was a period of two to three weeks in this pre-consultation phase,” Navarro added. “And we should have been able at that point to issue this notice that would then set the next milestone of the 90 days. And that didn’t happen because we got slow-played by Congress.”
When the fast-track process was initiated, it allowed the Trump administration to put the trade deal before both chambers of Congress. Neither chamber is allowed to amend it or filibuster if the administration correctly “checks some boxes,” Navarro noted. The pre-consultation phase, which was only supposed to take a few weeks, has been delayed nearly 100 days, however, because Lighthizer hasn’t yet been confirmed.
“So that’s unacceptable. I mean, we’ve been slow-played, so the president’s been frustrated about that,” Navarro said.
Navarro said despite the delay and obstruction the administration has still registered important wins in realigning the trade priorities of the nation to put American workers first.
The U.S. will no longer stand by and watch as the world takes advantage of unfair deals to steal American jobs and industry, Navarro said.
“[Trump] made it clear though to the world that that’s gotta end,” Navarro said.
He also said Trump has secured commitments from the leadership of NAFTA member countries to remain committed to renegotiation.
“And he got strong commitments not just from the leaders of Mexico and Canada to accelerate this process, but also from the leadership on Capitol Hill.”
The White House National Trade Council director said going forward the president will push Congress to get in gear.
“And they will move at Trump Time. They will not move in Obama Time. Trump Time is fast time,” Navarro insisted. “We want a deal that’s fair for the American people … We need to have trade with both Mexico and Canada. But it will be fair trade, not free trade.”
“We’re moving in the right direction now,” Navarro added. “We’ve got commitments, but I think the world understands after this week that the president’s not messing around here.”
Navarro also insisted Trump and his trade team will “absolutely not” soften their “America first” position on key trade issues.
“If you got Bob Lighthizer and [U.S. Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross at that table, are you telling me that that’s going to be a soft deal? I think not,” Navarro said. “This has been a great hundred days. I mean, we have said, signaled to the world that we’re serious.”
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Navarro pointed to Trump’s very first working day in office, in which he removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — fulfilling a firm promise he’d often repeated on the campaign trail. This move effectively “drove a stake through the heart of a deal which would have decimated … our auto industry and our sovereignty,” Navarro noted.
“I mean, it was nuts,” he said, adding that “we’ve got a very forceful strategy that we’re moving forward on NAFTA.”
When Ingraham brought up concerns that Trump may be softening on his stance with China, Navarro insisted that there’s an ongoing plan in place to address the U.S.’s trade grievances against China. And these grievances, he noted, are “broad, deep and severe” and cannot be minimized.
“We’ll see what happens,” Navarro said. “This is what diplomacy is.”