Peter Navarro is President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for head of the National Trade Council, a new agency that will advise the president on issues of trade, Trump’s transition team announced today.
Navarro is known for being a China hawk, as he has written several books critical of the country’s trade practices. Trump during his campaign repeatedly said that China is ripping off the United States, and he threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on imported goods from China.
“I read one of Peter’s books on America’s trade problems years ago and was impressed by the clarity of his arguments and thoroughness of his research,” President-Elect Trump said in a statement today. “He has presciently documented the harms inflicted by globalism on American workers, and laid out a path forward to restore our middle class. He will fulfill an essential role in my administration as trade adviser.”
Here’s what you need to know about Peter Navarro, the new (and first) head of the National Trade Council.
1. He Is Critical of China’s Trade Policies
Peter Navarro has written a series of books – and has directed one documentary – that take the position that the United States must be more aggressive towards China on trade policy.
Navarro’s last three books were The Coming China Wars, Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World, and Death by China. His most recent book was turned into a documentary film with the full title Death By China: How America Lost Its Manufacturing Base.
In his work, Navarro says that China engages in currency manipulation and abusive trade policies that are hurting the United States. The description of his most recent book opens by saying, “The world’s most populous nation and soon-to-be largest economy is rapidly turning into the planet’s most efficient assassin. Unscrupulous Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding world markets with lethal products. China’s perverse form of capitalism combines illegal mercantilist and protectionist weapons to pick off American industries, job by job.”
The website for the Death By China movie prominently features an endorsement from Donald Trump, who says, “Death by China is right on. This important documentary depicts our problem with China with facts, figures and insight. I urge you to see it.”
In an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, Navarro defends Donald Trump’s threat to impose a 45 percent tariff on goods from China.
“Let’s set the record straight,” Navarro writes. “Trump will impose countervailing tariffs not just on China, but on any American trade partner that cheats on its trade deals using practices such as currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies.”
2. He Ran For Office in California as a Democrat
Peter Navarro has sought a political career several times, though he did not run as a member of Donald Trump’s party.
Navarro’s first time seeking office was in 1992, when he ran for mayor of San Diego, California. He won the Democratic primary with 38 percent of the vote and faced Republican Susan Golding in the general election. Like Donald Trump, Navarro spent quite a bit of his own money running for office, giving $390,000 to the campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times. That was almost half of all the money he used for the race, as leading up to the election, the Navarro campaign reported $620,279 in funds. In the final weeks of the election, Navarro obtained a $225,000 line of credit, secured by his own home.
Golding ended up using this as an attack on Navarro, saying that he was trying to buy himself the job.
“Peter likes to say that developers are trying to buy the election, and I agree that someone is trying to buy the mayor’s office,” Golding said during the race. “It’s Peter Navarro.”
It was a close election, but Golding ended up winning with 52 percent of the vote.
Navarro ran for office again in 1996, this time for the 49th Congressional District. He received the Democratic nomination but was defeated in the general election by Republican Brian Bilbray. Bilbray ended up serving in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 and then from 2006 to 2013.
Finally, Navarro ran one last time in 2001, running for a position on the San Diego city council but being defeated by Donna Frye.
Navarro told Bloomberg that in terms of his politics, he is a “Reagan-Trump Democrat abandoned long ago by my party on the economy, trade and foreign policy.”
3. He Is an Economics Professor at the University of California, Irvine
Navarro has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, and he works as a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Irvine.
It was learning from his students that helped Navarro come to his current position on China, he told The Los Angeles Times.
“The epiphany for me was when I began to notice in the early 2000s a lot of my fully employed [former] MBA students were becoming fully unemployed,” he said. “And it was like, “What’s going on here?” And as I began to look more deeply into it, all roads led to Beijing.”
4. His Wife, Leslie Lebon, Is an Architect
Navarro is married to Leslie Lebon, who makes a living as an architect.
The couple currently resides in Laguna Beach, California with their son Alex. Navarro and Lebon purchased a 3,745-square-foot, 1928 home there, and Lebon used her skills as an architect to completely remodel it, according to Laguna Beach Magazine.
The Laguna Beach house includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a pool house and a guest room.
5. He Endorsed Donald Trump in March 2016
Peter Navarro wrote an op-ed endorsing Donald Trump for president in March 2016. Trump tends to reward those who supported him when they didn’t have to, and Navarro got behind the Republican candidate at a time when it was far from guaranteed that he would receive the party’s nomination.
In an opinion piece for National Interest, Navarro writes that Donald Trump’s doctrine will be “peace through strength,” just like Ronald Reagan.
“Trump will no longer tolerate a mercantilist China having its way with America’s factories and jobs,” Navarro writes. “He will firmly crack down on unfair trade practices like illegal export subsidies, currency manipulation, and intellectual property theft and bring American jobs and factories home.”
Navarro goes on to say that Trump defeat ISIS by targeting their oil fields, he will overturn the Iran nuclear deal, and he will require NATO allies to pay more, all of which will make America safer. In the piece, Navarro also defends Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Trump recognizes Vladimir Putin for the clever, ruthless, charismatic leader that he is,” Navarro writes. “…Putin recognizes Trump as a strong and fearless leader who will draw clear red lines in Europe and the Middle East that Putin dare not cross. This is a far better and safer situation for America than a status quo Russia policy that leads from behind and inspires far more contempt from Putin than respect.”
In August 2016, Navarro became one of Donald Trump’s policy advisers, despite having never once met Trump or talked with him on the phone, according to the Los Angeles Times. Navarro told the Times that he and Trump had exchanged letters.