Politics

White House Trade Adviser: Trump Is the Opposite of Bush and Clinton

Navarro says one predecessor 'greased the wheels' for economic imbalances, another dithered on Mideast wars

It will take more time to reverse U.S. trade policies because President Donald Trump represents such a dramatic break from his predecessors, a key White House adviser said Wednesday.

Peter Navarro, director of trade and industrial policy at the White House, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that it should be no surprise that former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have implicitly criticized Trump’s assault on globalism.

“What Trump does is basically repudiate everything those two presidents did on trade, which wound up, basically, having a tremendous negative impact on this country,” he said. “Let’s not forget it was Bill Clinton who, basically, greased the wheels for China to get into the World Trade Organization in 2001, and since that time, we’ve lost over 60,000 factories and 5 million manufacturing jobs.”

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Navarro said Bush was no better.

“No. 2, George Bush was on the case for eight years, distracted by [quixotic] wars in the Middle East when he should have been paying attention to China,” he said. “And basically, he was the guy who let, along with the Republican Party, let those jobs go offshore. Trump is a change agent here in the best sense of the word.”

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Navarro noted the executive order Trump signed last week instructing a comprehensive, 270-day review of America’s defense-industrial capacity. He said Trump is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower who recognizes the link between national defense and domestic industrial strength.

“That’s what people like Bush and Clinton miss,” he said.

To supporters  frustrated by a lack of visible action on trade so far, Navarro asked for patience. He said the pace of change will pick up dramatically in the second half of Trump’s first year.

“By the time we get to exactly a year from inauguration, these next six months are going to see just the most amazing actions on trade that have ever been done by a sitting president,” he said. “And the first six months have been a way of setting all of that up … It’s all good.”

Trump campaigned vigorously last year on a platform of reorienting decades of trade policy. He formally killed the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership during his first week in office and has initiated renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

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In addition, Trump has taken steps to crack down on illegal dumping and has moved to change trade policies regarding China.

But the process has been painfully slow to supporters, who expected immediate action. Some trade experts said it is unlikely that a NAFTA renegotiation could be completed by the end of the year.

Navarro said it takes time under the law to take actions such as cracking down on foreign countries shipping steel and aluminum at below-production costs, to the detriment of domestic companies.

“The Department of Commerce must finish its investigation” under the statute, he said. “We’re waiting for that report. The secretary of commerce is doing a measured, detailed job. But that’s what you have to do.”

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