The economic world is an endless abyss of complications — with countries all around the world vying for fiscal hegemony, trade can easily become economic warfare between nations. As of last month, a UCI professor at the Paul Merage School of Business, Peter Navarro, is entering this hectic world in an effort to make the United States a formidable economic powerhouse. President Trump has chosen Navarro to be the Director of the National Trade Council of the U.S. for the next four years, putting him in charge of how our country fiscally interacts with foreign nations.
Of course, like most of President Trump’s advisors, Peter Navarro’s plans to make “America Great Again” depend on some pretty radical plans — some of which include heavily penalizing China. Whether his plans are going to work, I am not sure. The business world is murky and it seems everyone has a cure-all plan. Despite my initial hesitance to trust the judgement of one of Trump’s advisors, Navarro’s experience in the economic world makes me optimistic for the next four years.
What brings me a sense of relief is that Peter Navarro is an accredited economist with a PhD from Harvard University. Furthermore, he is a Democrat. At first, this bipartisan decision made by Trump was very consoling because it showed that Trump is willing to cross party lines when looking for economic solutions. However, this joy was short-lived. I soon found out that Peter Navarro’s extremely radical views on trade have alienated him from most economists, as stated by Adam Davidson, a leading Money columnist at the New Yorker.
According to numerous mainstream publications, such as CNBC, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, Navarro is an outcast in the economic world and many free-market businesspeople certainly question his desires for a more strictly controlled economy. Many of the negative sentiments against Navarro come from the fact that he is an outspoken critic of China. In his 2011 book, “Death by China”, Navarro wrote that the U.S. is in a destructive economic relationship with China and that China works with U.S. corporations to sabotage American industries and interests. He notes further that trade with China is a zero sum game in which a transaction can only occur if one party wins while the other loses. Navarro’s rhetoric against China is definitely inflammatory and the scenarios he paints about the U.S. trade relationship with China truly seem exploitative on China’s part. However, China is an economic powerhouse in the world, and alienating them would mean that many of the cheap Chinese products that Americans indulge in would either become more expensive or scarce.
I don’t certainly want to undermine Navarro’s arguments — he has been an economist for decades and has been studying the world’s markets for a long time. There has to be some truth in what he is saying. It is well known that China constantly manipulates its currency, makes international investments almost impossible in Chinese territories, ignores intellectual property laws, and forgoes safety standards and environmental protection. China is also notorious for protecting domestic trade — Time Magazine points to how unfair it is that China is given the privilege to tap into almost every market around the world, but the world does not have the ability to do so in Chinese markets.
Is it radical for Peter Navarro to try to limit a free market economy in an effort to protect U.S. domestic trade? In truth, I’d argue no, because all countries want to create an economy that disproportionately benefits them. For Navarro to look for plans that benefit the U.S. is very natural. But the fact that formidable economists such as at the New York Times or CNN constantly oppose him on his views on China worries me. Is punishing China by creating stricter trade agreements going to force them to create trade that benefits Americans? According to economist Nouriel Roubini, “if the U.S. is going to give up on economic and trading relations with Asia and the Pacific, China has an alternative plan — not just for the Pacific and Asia, but also for Latin America.” So, it seems that a loss of American markets will not make a huge dent on Chinese markets.
We should give Navarro a chance to implement his views and then critique him on his efficacy afterwards. As a UCI student, it is very exciting to see one of our own professors take an important role in our country’s well-being. Not only might UCI be pushed to national headlines, but our students taking classes led by Navarro will gain a deeper insight on how business functions in the White House. I certainly hope that Professor Peter Navarro is successful in implementing his plans and making the American trade markets more prosperous.
Sharmin Shanur is a first-year cognitive sciences major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.