White House Trade Council Director Touts 'Made In America' Week NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, about the Trump administration's "Made in America" week.
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White House Trade Council Director Touts 'Made In America' Week

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White House Trade Council Director Touts 'Made In America' Week

White House Trade Council Director Touts 'Made In America' Week

White House Trade Council Director Touts 'Made In America' Week

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/538148732/538148733" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, about the Trump administration's "Made in America" week.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Before we learned about the second Trump-Putin meeting and before the Republican health care bill collapsed, the White House planned to promote a message this week, and they're still trying - Made in America, especially U.S. manufacturing. It's a theme that resonated for candidate Donald Trump.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Peter Navarro is the director of the National Trade Council. That's a new White House office. And he joins us to talk about the White House's Made in America week. Welcome to the program.

PETER NAVARRO: It's great to be here. As I walked into the building, I had a chance to go into your gift shop here and was very pleased to...

SIEGEL: Is everything made in America there?

NAVARRO: Well, I was pleased to hear that they do - they make a strong effort to try to get made-in-America products. That puts the national in National Public Radio.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) Well, I want to ask you about the Made in America week but also about the general policy area that you're involved in in the White House. And I know you've spoken - you're addressing the problem of a $700 billion trade deficit in goods as a measure of what's bad. If all of these policies, including what you're underscoring at Made in America - if all of them succeed, what's a reasonable target for this administration to reach in terms of a goods trade deficit or surplus?

NAVARRO: Well, I think you start with the idea that we've had 15 years of subpar growth - 2 percent or below. Prior to 2001, we grew at 3 and a half percent. The big difference has been the entry of China in particular into the World Trade Organization and our markets. And we've just been hammered. What that does as a proxy basically is it drains essentially the lifeblood out of our manufacturing economy, out of our communities, out of our tax bases.

SIEGEL: The manufactured goods deficit - I mean how - from 700 billion, do you think you could cut it in half over four years?

NAVARRO: Well, what we - yeah, we'd love to cut it in half.

SIEGEL: But that would be a very successful...

NAVARRO: And we're going to work really hard - yeah.

SIEGEL: ...Administration maneuver.

NAVARRO: And you can break that down into how we need to do that. A lot of the problem with Germany, Japan, Mexico, Korea is in things like autos and auto parts. With China, it's another set of facts.

SIEGEL: For a lot of American businesses, the numbers just don't add up when they consider manufacturing in the U.S. I mean The Washington Post reported on Ivanka Trump and all of her businesses recently, and she produces overwhelmingly outside the country to do apparel and accessories and shoes. Can you imagine a set of policies and changes in policy that would make someone in her situation look at the same numbers and say, I should be making clothing and shoes in the United States?

NAVARRO: There's no question that there are a set of policies that we need to address. And what's interesting about this...

SIEGEL: But you said the answer is...

NAVARRO: What's interesting...

SIEGEL: If I hear you, the short answer is yes. You're saying...

NAVARRO: Yeah, the short answer is yes. The long answer is - what's interesting is that with every different country that we have a large trade deficit with, we have a different set of problems - with Mexico, for example - cheap labor. With Germany, they have a misaligned currency. So if you address these issues of unfair trade practices, if you get better trade deals, if you stop things like forced technology transfer or the theft of our intellectual property, if you ensure that the sweatshops of the world live up to international standards for minimum wage and safe working conditions, if you have reasonable environmental protection, then American manufacturers can compete with anybody in the world.

SIEGEL: One of the criticisms of the trade agreements that have permitted the kinds of problems that you have criticized is that in fact trade policy has been made very much with the interests of American business in mind. They lobby very hard, and they get policies that they like.

NAVARRO: Not business...

SIEGEL: And they haven't been necessarily...

NAVARRO: ...Multinational corporations.

SIEGEL: Well, they...

NAVARRO: There's a schism between the small- and medium-sized domestic manufacturers and the big multinationals who want to put things offshore. The other thing that's...

SIEGEL: Should the multinationals and their lobbies be kept out of the trade policymaking process in the Trump administration?

NAVARRO: (Laughter) Well, that's - you know, look. The swamp is alive and well in Washington. But our job as an administration...

SIEGEL: But you're here to drain it. You've come here to drain it.

NAVARRO: Yeah, we come here to drain it. Our administration is to keep the eye on the ball, and the eye on the ball is buy American, hire American.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you if you disagree with another observation that's often made about what's hurting our own domestic production. People find it cheaper to buy goods that are made overseas very often. We - I mean Donald Trump has been called to account for building with Chinese steel when he built a hotel. It was cheaper. It was cheaper. It was veiled through...

NAVARRO: So let me ask a question.

SIEGEL: But should things be more expensive?

NAVARRO: So...

SIEGEL: Should we expect that things be more expensive?

NAVARRO: So here's what's interesting to me.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: It's, like, when we have these conversations, you raise a really interesting point. But then you throw in Donald Trump and what he's doing or Ivanka Trump. It's like, I think it would be really interesting...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: ...Particularly with a news outlet that is as intellectually honest and deep as NPR to just have these kind of debates without throwing little darts in between. That was a little dart. So the answer here...

SIEGEL: (Laughter) But it's different. The difference about...

NAVARRO: I know, but look.

SIEGEL: ...This administration is people have made these decisions...

NAVARRO: Yeah, but look.

SIEGEL: ...In their own lives.

NAVARRO: You know, look. If your question is - without the darts - those countries can produce cheaper, therefore we should buy their cheap stuff...

SIEGEL: That wasn't - no, you've cut me off. My question is...

NAVARRO: OK.

SIEGEL: ...Should we assume that there's a virtue in buying American that would make it worth it to pay more for things and for construction maybe to be more expensive or the goods that we buy at Walmart to cost a bit more than they do now?

NAVARRO: Let me give you a number of answers to that. I mean first of all, a lot of the goods that come from abroad which are, quote, "cheaper" basically are cheaper because state-owned enterprises have made them heavily subsidized by their government, and they're dumped into our markets. Number two, if you look at this as a movie rather than a snapshot and you buy American in our government procurement policy - let's say it costs a little bit more - but what do you get for that?

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: You get more jobs in a community. You get more tax base.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: Over time, you get stronger, vibrant communities. I mean I don't know...

SIEGEL: So what I hear you say, Mr. Navarro, is yes, that we should - there's a virtue in our having goods that cost a bit more...

NAVARRO: You can...

SIEGEL: ...If they're made in the U.S. That's what I'm hearing you say.

NAVARRO: What I'm saying is that if something looks like it costs a little more just 'cause it's made in America, when you cost it all out...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: ...The benefits over time far outweigh the costs. Think about this. Over the last 15 years...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NAVARRO: ...What has been the cost of buying all those cheap goods? We've lost trillions in terms of our tax base, and we put millions of people out of work.

SIEGEL: The tradeoff of extensive international trade that would lower the price of consumer goods in the U.S. has not paid off, is what you're saying. It's...

NAVARRO: I would say that the American people elected Donald J. Trump precisely because they understand that a lot better than the swamp creatures in Washington and the journalists that report the news.

SIEGEL: Your views of - your criticism of trade policy is a lot closer to that of progressive Democrats over the past several years than it is to conventional Republicans. I mean there's been a real assault by labor on trade agreements and the lack of enforceable labor and environmental standards and the loss of jobs in this country. Given the lack of bipartisanship in this city, in Washington, are you finding any resonance? Are you talking with liberal Democrats or with the AFL-CIO about these things, and are you finding support from such groups?

NAVARRO: This administration engages with everybody on these issues, and I think the president sees this better than anybody. This issue of trade is something that is a bipartisan issue that ultimately we can unite on if we understand the full gravity of the situation and that fair trade is what we want, not just so-called free trade.

SIEGEL: Peter Navarro is director of President Trump's National Trade Council.

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