Peter Kent Navarro (born July 15, 1949) is an American heterodox economist, who currently serves as the Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, and the Director of the White House National Trade Council, a newly created entity in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government. A professor emeritus of economics and public policy at the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, Navarro is the author of over a dozen books, including Death by China. He has published peer-reviewed economics research on energy policy, charity, deregulation and the economics of trash collection.
|Director of the National Trade Council|
January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Born||July 15, 1949|
|Education||Tufts University (BA)
Harvard University (MPA, PhD)
Navarro's views are significantly outside the mainstream of economic thought. A strong proponent of reducing U.S. trade deficits, Navarro is well-known as a critic of Germany and China and has accused both nations of currency manipulation. He has called for increasing the size of the American manufacturing sector, setting high tariffs, and repatriating global supply chains. He is also a strong opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Early life and educationEdit
Navarro was born on July 15, 1949. Navarro's father, Alfred "Al" Navarro, a saxophonist and clarinetist, led a house band, which played summers in New Hampshire and winters in Florida. His parents divorced when he was 9 or 10. Subsequently, he lived with his mother, Evelyn Littlejohn, a Saks Fifth Avenue secretary, in Palm Beach, Florida. He lived in Bethesda, Maryland, during his teenage years.
Navarro graduated from Tufts University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He earned a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1979, and a PhD in Economics from Harvard under supervision of Richard E. Caves in 1986. Shortly after graduation from Tufts, Navarro spent three years in the U.S. Peace Corps, serving in Thailand.
Navarro's policy prescriptions include that "U.S. should be tough on trade, crack down on intellectual property theft, tax Chinese exports, combat Chinese mercantilism, [and] bring jobs home."
A professor of economics and public policy at University of California, Irvine for over 20 years, Navarro has worked on energy issues and the relationship between the United States and Asia. He has received multiple teaching awards for MBA courses he has taught. Before joining the UC Irvine faculty, Navarro worked as a research associate in Harvard University's Energy and Environmental Policy Center from 1981 to 1985.
As a doctoral student in 1984 Nararro wrote a book titled, The Policy Game: How Special Interests and Ideologues are Stealing America, which discussed that special interest groups had led the United States to "a point in its history where it cannot grow and prosper." In the book he also called for greater worker's compensation by those that had lost jobs to trade and foreign competition. His doctoral thesis on why corporations donate to charity is one of his highest cited works. He has also done research in the topic of wind energy with Frank Harris, a former student of his.
He then lectured at the University of California, San Diego, where he also served as an assistant professor, teaching courses in business and government. Prior to teaching, Navarro worked in Washington, D.C. as an energy and environmental policy analyst. Navarro has published peer-reviewed economics research on energy policy, charity, deregulation and the economics of trash collection. According to the Economist, Navarro "is a prolific writer, but has no publications in top-tier academic journals."
Navarro is a prolific author with nearly a dozen books written on various topics in economics and specializing in issues of balance of trade. The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought, How They Can Be Won is a book published by FT Press in (2006). Navarro examines China as an emerging world power confronting challenges at home and abroad as it struggles to exert itself in the global market. He also discuss how China's role in international commerce is creating conflicts with nations around the world over energy, natural resources, the environment, intellectual property, and other issues. A review in Publishers Weekly describes the book as "comprehensive" and "contemporary" and concludes that it "will teach readers to understand the dragon, just not how to vanquish it".
Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action (2011) is a non-fiction book by Navarro and Greg Autry that chronicles "from currency manipulation and abusive trade policies, to deadly consumer products," the alleged threats to America's economic dominance in the 21st century posed by China's Communist Party. Navarro argues that China violates fair trade by "illegal export subsidies and currency manipulation, effectively flooding the U.S. markets" and unfairly making it "virtually impossible" for American companies to compete. It is a critique of "global capitalism" including foreign labor practices and environmental protection. Currency manipulation and subsidies are stated as reasons that "American companies cannot compete because they’re not competing with Chinese companies, they’re competing with the Chinese government."
Navarro ran for office in San Diego, California three times as a Democrat. In 1992, he ran for mayor as an independent, finishing first (38.2%) in the all-party primary, but losing (48.0%) to Republican Susan Golding in the runoff. During his mayoral campaign, Navarro ran on a no-growth platform. In 1996, he ran for the 49th Congressional District as the Democratic Party nominee (41.9%), but lost to Republican Brian Bilbray (52.7%). In 2001, Navarro ran in a special election to fill the District 6 San Diego city council seat, but lost in the primary.
Navarro supports President Barack Obama's phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, the adoption of wind energy, and carbon taxes in order to stop global warming. He has also advocated an isolationist and protectionist American foreign policy.
President Trump's chief trade advisorEdit
In 2016, Navarro served as a policy adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Navarro and the international private equity investor Wilbur Ross authored an economic plan for Trump campaign in September 2016. Navarro was invited to be an adviser after Jared Kushner saw on Amazon that he co-wrote Death by China, while he was researching China for Trump. When told that the Tax Policy Center assessment of Trump's economic plan would reduce federal revenues by $6 trillion and reduce economic growth in the long term, Navarro said that the analysis demonstrated "a high degree of analytical and political malfeasance". When the Peterson Institute for International Affairs estimated that Trump's economic plan would cost millions of Americans their jobs, Navarro said that writers at the Peterson Institute "weave a false narrative and they come up with some phony numbers." According to MIT economist Simon Johnson, the economic plan essay authored by Navarro and Wilbur Ross for Donald Trump during the campaign had projections "based on assumptions so unrealistic that they seem to have come from a different planet. If the United States really did adopt Trump’s plan, the result would be an immediate and unmitigated disaster." When 370 economists, including nineteen Nobel laureates, signed a letter warning against Donald Trump's stated economic policies in November 2016, Navarro said that the letter was “an embarrassment to the corporate offshoring wing of the economist profession who continues to insist bad trade deals are good for America.”
In October 2016, with Wilbur Ross and Andy Puzder, Navarro coauthored the essay titled "Economic Analysis of Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter". On December 21, 2016, Navarro was selected by President-elect Trump to head a newly created position, as director of the White House National Trade Council. He outlines President Trump's trade policy as aiming to create jobs, revive the manufacturing sector, and improve the country's trade balance. He warned that trade deficits could jeopardize U.S. national security by allowing unfriendly nations to encroach on American supply chains. One of his main missions is to focus on behaviors by other countries that he considers abusive, cheating, illegal, and unfair against the U.S.
In July 2017, Politico reported that Navarro's influence within the White House was weak. Axios reported the same in November 2017. By July 2017, Navarro only had two staffers, and the National Trade Council had essentially become part of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. By September 2017, the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy had been folded into the National Economic Council, which meant that Navarro would have to report to NEC Director Gary Cohn. However, in February 2018, several media outlets reported that Navarro's influence in the administration was rising again and that he would likely be promoted from the secondary billet of Deputy Assistant to the President to Assistant to the President, giving Navarro parity with the NEC Director. Josh Rogin, writing for The Washington Post, reported that Navarro had used his time of lowered influence to lead several low-profile policy items, such as working to increase military funding, drafting Executive Order 13806, and leading the effort to solve a dispute between the United States and Qatar over the Open Skies Agreement between the two countries.
In explaining his role in the Trump administration, Navarro said that he is there to "provide the underlying analytics that confirm [Trump's] intuition [on trade]. And his intuition is always right in these matters."
Opinions and assessment of trade policyEdit
Navarro has been a staunch critic of trade with China and strong proponent of reducing U.S. trade deficits. He has attacked Germany, Japan and China for currency manipulation. He has called for increasing the size of the American manufacturing sector, setting high tariffs, and repatriating global supply chains. He was a fierce opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
According to Bloomberg News, Navarro had "roots as a mainstream economist" as he voiced support for free trade in his 1984 book The Policy Game. He changed his positions as he saw "the globalist erosion of the American economy" develop.
According to Politico, Navarro's economic theories are "considered fringe" by his fellow economists. Al-Jazeera notes that "few other economists have endorsed Navarro's ideas." A New Yorker reporter described Navarro's views on trade and China as so radical "that, even with his assistance, I was unable to find another economist who fully agrees with them." The Economist described Navarro as having "oddball views". The George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen has described him as “one of the most versatile and productive American economists of the last few decades”, but Cowen noted that he disagreed with his views on trade, which he claimed go "against a strong professional consensus." University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers described Navarro's views as "far outside the mainstream," noting that "he endorses few of the key tenets of" the economics profession. According to Lee Branstetter, economics professor at Carnegie Mellon and trade expert with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Navarro "was never a part of the group of economists who ever studied the global free-trade system ... He doesn't publish in journals. What he's writing and saying right now has nothing to do with what he got his Harvard Ph.D. in ... he doesn't do research that would meet the scientific standards of that community." Marcus Noland, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, described a tax and trade paper written by Navarro and Wilbur Ross for Trump as "a complete misunderstanding of international trade, on their part."
Border adjustment taxEdit
Navarro supports a tax policy called "border adjustment", which essentially taxes all imports. In response to criticism that the border adjustment tax could hurt U.S. companies and put jobs at risk, Navarro called it "fake news."
Critic of China trade policyEdit
According to Politico, "Navarro is perhaps the most extreme advocate in Washington, and maybe in all of economics, for an aggressive stance toward China." Navarro put his attention to China in the mid-2000s. His first publication on the subject is the 2006 book The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought, How They Can Be Won. Navarro has said that he started to examine China when he noticed that his former students were losing jobs, concluding that China was at fault.
In Politico's description of the book, "Navarro uses military language to refer to China's trade policies, referring to its 'conquest' of the world's export markets, which has 'vaporized literally millions of manufacturing jobs and driven down wages.' ... China's aspirations are so insatiable, he claims, that eventually there will be a clash over “our most basic of all needs—bread, water, and air.'" Navarro has described the entry of China to the World Trade Organization as one of the United States' biggest mistakes. To respond to the Chinese threat, Navarro has advocated for 43% tariffs, the repudiation of trade pacts, major increases in military expenditures and strengthened military ties with Taiwan. The New York Times notes that "a wide range of economists have warned that curtailing trade with China would damage the American economy, forcing consumers to pay higher prices for goods and services." Navarro has reportedly also encouraged President Trump to enact a 25-percent tariff on Chinese steel imports, something that "trade experts worry... would upend global trade practices and cause countries to retaliate, potentially leading to a trade war".
Navarro has said that a large part of China's competitive advantage over the United States stems from unfair trade practices. Navarro has criticized China for pollution, poor labor standards, government subsidies, producing "contaminated, defective and cancerous" exports, currency manipulation, and theft of US intellectual property. In his poorly received 2012 documentary, Navarro said that China caused the loss of 57,000 US factories and 25 million jobs. While Navarro maintains that China manipulates its currency, neither the U.S. Treasury nor most economists believe that it is the case.
Of the more than dozen China specialists contacted by Foreign Policy, most either did not know of him or only interacted with him briefly. Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago professor of Chinese History, said that his "recollection is that [Navarro] generally avoided people who actually knew something about the country." Columnist Gordon G. Chang was the only China watcher contacted by Foreign Policy who defended Navarro, but even then noted that he disagreed with Navarro's claims of currency manipulation, opposition to the TPP and calls for high tariffs. Navarro does not appear to speak Chinese nor has he spent any time in the country. James McGregor, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that Navarro's books and documentary on China "have close to zero credibility with people who know the country," and are filled with "hyperbole, inaccuracies" and a "cartoonish caricature of China that he puts out."
Navarro drew controversy when he accused Germany of using a "grossly undervalued" euro to "exploit" the US and its EU partners. Politico noted that Germany does not set the value of the euro. Economists and commentators are divided on the accuracy of Navarro's remarks. Paul Krugman said that Navarro was right and wrong at the same time: "Yes, Germany in effect has an undervalued currency relative to what it would have without the euro... But does this mean that the euro as a whole is undervalued against the dollar? Probably not." Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff described Navarro's accusation of Germany as a currency manipulator as "#stupideconomics".
Navarro argues that the decline in US manufacturing jobs is chiefly due to "unfair trade practices and bad trade deals. And if you don't believe that, just go to the booming factories in Germany, in Japan, in Korea, in China, in Malaysia, in Vietnam, in Indonesia, in Italy—every place that we're running deficits with." However, many economists attribute the decline in manufacturing jobs chiefly to automation and other innovations that allow manufacturing firms to produce more goods with fewer workers, rather than trade.
Navarro has been a proponent of strengthening the manufacturing sector's role in the national economy: "We envision a more Germany-style economy, where 20 percent of our workforce is in manufacturing. ... And we're not talking about banging tin in the back room." The New York Times notes that "experts on manufacturing ... doubt that the government can significantly increase factory employment, noting that mechanization is the major reason fewer people are working in factories."
Opposition to NAFTAEdit
Repatriation of global supply chainsEdit
Trade as a national security riskEdit
Navarro has framed trade as a national security risk. According to Politico, "he’s a hard-line mercantilist who insists that military confrontation with some trading partners is almost inevitable."
Navarro has characterized foreign purchases of U.S. companies as a threat to national security, but according to NPR, this is "a fringe view that puts him at odds with the vast majority of economists." Dartmouth economist Douglas Irwin noted that the US government already reviews foreign purchases of companies with military or strategic value, and has on occasion rejected such deals. Irwin said that Navarro had not substantiated his claim with any evidence.
Navarro has also said that the United States has "already begun to lose control of [its] food supply chain", which according to NPR, "sounded pretty off-the-wall to a number of economists" who noted that the US is a massive exporter of food. Dermot Hayes, an agribusiness economist at Iowa State University, described Navarro's statement as "uninformed".
Navarro is a proponent of the notion that trade deficits are bad in and of themselves, a view which is widely rejected by trade experts and economists across the political spectrum.[excessive citations] In a white paper co-authored with Wilbur Ross, Navarro stated, "when a country runs a trade deficit by importing more than it exports, this subtracts from growth." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending his views, Navarro stated, "If we are able to reduce our trade deficits through tough, smart negotiations, we should be able to increase our growth." Harvard University economics professor Gregory Mankiw has said that Navarro's views on the trade deficit are based on the kind of mistakes that "even a freshman at the end of ec 10 knows." Tufts University professor Daniel W. Drezner said about Navarro's op-ed, "as someone who's written on this topic I could not for the life of me understand his reasoning". According to Tyler Cowen, "close to no one" in the economics profession agrees with Navarro's idea that a trade deficit is bad in and of itself. Nobel laureate Angus Deaton described Navarro's attitude on trade deficits as "an old-fashioned mercantilist position."
The Economist magazine has described Navarro's views on the trade deficit as "dodgy economics" and "fantasy", while the Financial Times has described them as "poor economics". Economists Noah Smith, Scott Sumner, Olivier Blanchard, and Phil Levy have also criticized Navarro's views on the trade deficit.
Opposition to Trans-Pacific PartnershipEdit
Navarro opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In an April 2015 op-ed, Navarro said, "To woo us, their spinmeisters boast the TPP will spur American exports to stimulate sorely needed economic growth. In truth, the American economy will suffer severely. This is because the TPP will hammer two main drivers of economic growth—domestic investment and 'net exports.'" Navarro said in March 2017 that TPP "would have been a "death knell" to America’s auto and vehicle parts industry that we "urgently need to bring back to full life." Politico's Jacob Heilbrunn and the Economist argue that there may be a disconnect between Navarro's policy on China and his opposition to the TPP, as scuttling the TPP will strengthen China's hand.
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Navarro is perhaps the most extreme advocate in Washington, and maybe in all of economics, for an aggressive stance toward China, America’s largest trading partner… a series of interviews with the 67-year-old’s former colleagues, campaign staffers and students reveal a character far more defined by his interest in the trench combat of politics and policy than in academic research… his colleagues painted a picture of a charismatic personality whose telegenic presence helped him launch a political career and later find an audience for economic theories that were considered fringe even by the confrontational standards of the field… One academic economist who wrote positively about Navarro was Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, who lauded Navarro in a column for Bloomberg View last year as “one of the most versatile and productive American economists of the last few decades”—though he also, in the column, went on to disagree with many of Navarro’s major perspectives. I emailed him to ask what he thought specifically of Navarro’s trade views, and Cowen responded: “I think he is completely wrong on trade, and also against a strong professional consensus.”… Navarro himself has struggled in the past to produce a name of an economist who aligns with his worldview. The New Yorker asked him as much when it wrote its own profile last year, but both of the names Navarro offered fell through: Alan Tonelson, who frequently writes about trade on his blog, responded that he doesn’t “hold an economics degree,” while Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, noted Navarro’s “rather severe position.” “That zero-sum statement, I have a problem with that,” he told the magazine. “Where’s his proof?”
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The thing about Peter Navarro is that he was never a part of the group of economists who ever studied the global free-trade system," Branstetter said. "He doesn't publish in journals. What he's writing and saying right now has nothing to do with what he got his Harvard Ph.D. in ... he doesn't do research that would meet the scientific standards of that community. As far as I'm concerned he doesn't know what he's talking about in terms of trade policy.
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Peter Navarro, the director of Trump’s National Trade Council, published a Wall Street Journal op-ed that seemed to argue that trade deficits were bad for national security reasons. I say “seemed to” because as someone who’s written on this topic I could not for the life of me understand his reasoning.
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Peter Navarro says foreign companies buying up U.S. corporations are posing a threat to national security. That might sound bad, but it's a fringe view that puts him at odds with the vast majority of economists… Here is what Navarro says he's worried about. The U.S. imports more than it sells to the rest of the world. That trade deficit means some of our trading partners end up with a lot of cash. And they use some of it to invest in the U.S. They buy U.S. Treasuries, stocks, real estate. And sometimes they buy up U.S. companies. Most economists see this as just part of global trade, which overall benefits all the countries involved…. And then Navarro said, "We have already begun to lose control of our food supply chain." That statement in particular sounded pretty off-the-wall to a number of economists. Is the U.S. really losing control of its food supply? "I was completely confused by that comment," says Dermot Hayes, an agribusiness economist at Iowa State University. "It's an uninformed statement." "There's nothing that's going on that would say that other governments are buying essential portions of our agricultural infrastructure," he adds… So Hayes says Navarro just isn't making any sense. Hayes says the reality is the exact opposite: The U.S. is a massive exporter of food. So China, Japan, Mexico and lots of other countries rely on the U.S. for their food supply… All this is not to say that foreign ownership of companies never creates a national security problem. Douglas Irwin, a Dartmouth College trade economist, says that economists already recognize that national security considerations should override any adherence to free trade. "Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations going way back said defense is more important than opulence, so economists have always recognized that," Irwin says. But Irwin says the government already reviews foreign purchases of companies with military or strategic technology or significance—and it sometimes blocks those deals. He says Navarro just didn't provide convincing evidence that there's actually anything to worry about here.
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Navarro’s comments drew skepticism from trade experts and economists across the political spectrum, who said that line of thinking on economics was flawed. Economists say trade deficits aren’t an indication of good or bad economic times, but rather a function of savings and investments. (The United States enjoyed a stellar trade surplus during the Great Depression in the 1930s, for example.) "He won’t find economists—either on the left or the right—that believe trade deficits are this huge a problem," Chip Roh, a former assistant U.S. trade representative and trade lawyer, told Foreign Policy. "It doesn’t make economic sense." "When economists hear, ‘Our goal is reduce the trade deficit,’ it baffles us," Gordon Hanson, a trade economist at the University of California, San Diego, told FP. "He’s either using it as a cheap political ploy or there’s a misconception—he doesn’t understand how it operates."
- Timiraos, Nick (March 6, 2017). "Trump Adviser Peter Navarro: Trade Deficits Endanger U.S. National Security". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
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Peter Navarro, a professor of business at UC Irvine and a member of the all-male team of economic advisers Trump rolled out last week, argued that renegotiating trade deals that don’t increase the country’s GDP growth rate and decrease the deficit will keep him busy—and eventually generate "trillions in additional tax revenues over time" to fund investments in infrastructure and entitlements.... Many economists, however, don’t believe eliminating the trade deficit will be enough to spur the economy out of the low growth mode the U.S. and the global economy more broadly have been stuck in for more than a decade.
- "Trade hawks to rule the roost in Trump's White House". www.ft.com. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Once viewed as fringe thinking from a strident economic nationalist, Mr Navarro’s oeuvre is drawing urgent new scrutiny... Mr Navarro co-authored a much-scrutinised white paper in September that helped flesh out the Republican candidate’s economic policy. It put reducing the trade deficit and fighting back against "cheating" by US trading partners such as China at the core, arguing that US workers had for too long suffered from what it viewed as bad trade policy. Mainstream economists regard targeting the trade deficit as a misguided approach.
- "What You Should Know About the Professor Who Has Trump's Ear on the Economy". The Chronicle of Higher Education. December 7, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-12-08. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
In an interview with The Chronicle this week, Mr. Cowen said Mr. Navarro’s broad protectionist ideas—like Mr. Trump, he urges slapping huge tariffs on Chinese goods to reduce the trade deficit—are out of step with generally accepted economic theories. "There are plenty of economists who defend some form of protectionism," said Mr. Cowen, to help a growing economy or to bolster selective industries. But "close to no one," he said, agrees with Mr. Navarro’s idea that a trade deficit is bad on its face. ... according to Mr. Glazer, a professor in the economics department who has had reason to assess Mr. Navarro’s publications, his work from the past 10 years lacks a lot of the "rigorous analysis of data with statistics" that a top-ranked economics journal requires.
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Navarro and Ross say that getting rid of the trade deficit and boosting investment would also spur faster economic growth, which would bring in $1.74 trillion in tax revenue over a decade. Hooey, say economists across the political spectrum. (Navarro declined to answer questions in emails or respond to phone calls.) N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and a Harvard University economics professor, said in a September blog post that Navarro and Ross’s paper makes elementary mistakes by overstating growth and not understanding that a smaller trade deficit means lower investment along with possibly higher interest rates and less consumption. "Even a freshman at the end of ec 10 knows that trade deficits go hand in hand with capital inflows," Mankiw wrote.
- Rugaber, Paul WisemanI and Christopher S. "White House trade adviser: Deficit undermines US security". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2017-03-08. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Navarro's views on the trade deficit stand in stark contrast with mainstream economists, a difference he seemed to relish in his remarks.
- "White House civil war breaks out over trade". www.ft.com. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Mr Cohn and others have seized on Mr Navarro’s public comments—and widespread criticism by economists of his stand on trade deficits and other matters—to try and sideline him.
- "Analysis | Trump rails against trade deficit, but economists say there's no easy way for him to make it go away". Washington Post. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
At a conference Monday morning in Washington, Peter Navarro, the director of Trump’s National Trade Council, reiterated the administration’s focus on the trade deficit. The Trump administration policy is one of "free and fair and truly reciprocal trade that begins and ends with the belief that bilateral trade deficits do indeed matter," he said. "Trade deficits not only matter when it comes to jobs and growth and national security, they matter a great deal," Navarro said. Many economists disagree with this claim, saying that the factors behind the trade balance can be complex—and that the trade deficit is far from the best economic metric for policymakers to target... In an interview Monday, Angus Deaton, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2015, called the administration’s attitude on trade deficits "an old-fashioned mercantilist position." "If you stand on a platform, it makes you six inches taller," he said. "It’s a ridiculous argument."
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