Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trump Picks China Critic for Trade Role
By Yang Sheng
Global Times
2016/12/23 0:18:39

Trump’s nomination of NTC head raises prospects of trade war

The US President-elect Donald Trump has appointed a strident China critic, Peter Navarro, to lead a new office in the White House to oversee trade and industrial policy, with Chinese experts saying the decision heralds more uncertainty in future China-US relations.

Trump on Wednesday named Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and "one of the architects of the populist economic message," to lead a new White House office, the National Trade Council (NTC).

Before 2006, Navarro had no published academic works about China, but after the financial crisis in 2007-2008, he started to hype the "China threat theory," meaning "he is not an expert on China," Diao Daming, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Navarro is the author of Death by China and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World. His works deliver highly pessimistic and hostile messages about Sino-US relations. The Financial Times reported that Navarro "has for years warned that the US is engaged in an economic war with China" and advocated "a more aggressive stance," similar to the message that President-elect Trump sold to US voters during the presidential campaign.

As the head of a new office in the White House, this appointment doesn't need approval from the US Congress, so Navarro will definitely become a senior trade advisor to Trump, Diao said, "This is not a positive sign for China."

Navarro has a good relationship with Gordon G. Chang, the author of Coming Collapse of China and a TV commentator in the US with an extreme anti-China attitude. Chang co-authored the Crouching Tiger with Navarro.

Their views on China seem hilarious to mainstream US scholars, but Trump is an unusual leader, "so this appointment shows that he is trying to tell his supporters that he will fulfill the hard-line promise on foreign trade he made during the campaign," Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.  

Looming conflicts

Jin said Trump will have disputes with four groups of countries: US trading partners, US allies, US neighbors and Muslim countries, and "now it looks like China, as a major trading partner with the US, will be the first to start a dispute with the US."

China needs to prepare for a potential trade war with the US, Jin suggested, such as identifying what products to get from the US and what to get from other countries, and also in what areas we have overwhelming advantages against the US.

In the steel sector, it is possible that the US will launch a heavier offensive against China, Jin noted.

A spat between China and the US on steel has already taken place since the election of Trump. The Financial Times reported on November 13 that China is "bracing for a US and European backlash against Chinese steel, as the rise of Donald Trump threatens to escalate overseas opposition to a domestic industry that accounts for half the world's output."    

Since Navarro holds similar opinions on foreign trade with Trump, this latest development reinforces the view that Trump is going to build an "anti-globalization" administration, Diao said. "The possibility of trade frictions between the US and China is extremely high, but we can't reach a conclusion since Trump has not assumed his duties as president."

According to the latest list of Trump's team, Trump will have a divisive group of advisors. Navarro and Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, both favor increased trade restrictions. However, Trump also has many advisers who are proponents of free trade, including Gary D. Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, who will lead the National Economic Council; Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, who was tapped for secretary of state; and Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Trump's choice for ambassador to China, the New York Times reported.

No comments: