Dr. Peter Navarro, White House National Trade Council director, spoke with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily about President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” order and his call for an investigation of foreign steel dumping.
“‘Buy American’ is something that goes back to the 1930s,” Navarro explained. “It’s a policy which basically says that if we’re going to use taxpayer dollars, we should use those taxpayer dollars on American companies and American workers. It’s a great way for this country to revive its economy, to strengthen its manufacturing base, and it’s a bedrock policy.”
“There’s two aspects of it. There’s the ‘Buy American’ side, which is basically the government procurement. You have Buy America, which is the grants that go to build bridges and things like that. Over the years, the problem we’ve had is that although we have the laws on the books, our bureaucracy really doesn’t enforce it,” he said.
“What we did with this executive order this week – and it was a great, great executive order and a great day for America – we basically change the way the bureaucracy is going to start thinking about this,” he said.
Navarro said “the Trump culture is, essentially, Buy American, Hire American,” a philosophy it will express through strict monitoring and enforcement of those long-neglected laws and by minimizing the use of waivers, “which are very frequently used to undermine Buy America.”
“There’s something called the ‘melted and poured standard’ for steel, to treat it as Buy American. We’ve had slippage in that, where steel labs are coming in from foreign countries, often dumped into our markets, and transformed into something else and called ‘American.’ It’s 90 percent of the steel production, so we closed that loophole,” he said.
“And then another aspect of it – and no administration has ever tackled this; this may surprise your listeners – in our free trade agreements, there’s almost sixty of them out there with sixty different countries. We actually surrender our Buy American rights,” he added. “We treat foreign bidders for government procurement the same way we treat U.S. bidders. We’re going to take a really hard look at it. The reason why we’ve done that in the past, at least according to the spin, is that we’re going to get more business in foreign countries than we’ll give up here in America. But the studies we’ve seen so far suggest it’s just the opposite, in a big way.”
“This is a great way to move forward, building our jobs base. If we get the one trillion dollar package for infrastructure moving, and Congress is going to have to move on that with us, Buy American plus infrastructure is just going to be great for America,” he enthused.
Marlow asked Navarro to respond to criticism that “Buy America” is merely a form of protectionism.
“I would say it’s defense – defense of the American worker, defense of the American manufacturing base, defense of how we spend our tax dollars,” Navarro responded. “The problem, as you know, is that the ‘p’ word is often used to diminish and scare. We just don’t go down that road. We make no bones about the fact that it’s America First in this administration. We’re going to do what’s best for the people of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, from California to Florida, all around this great land. Buy American policies are an essential part of that.”
“Let’s remember this: this is our taxpayer dollars This is not like going into the private market. This is public dollars spent on public infrastructure,” he argued. “We believe very strongly that that should be built with American hands, and built by people who manufacture and produce in this country.”
Marlow asked for the Trump administration’s policy toward the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Trump has described as a “disaster,” both during his campaign and recently from the White House.
“NAFTA is a disaster,” Navarro agreed. “We’re either going to have a new NAFTA with Mexico and Canada separately that works for the American people – workers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers – we’re either going to have that, or we’re going to be out of NAFTA. There’s no third way here. The president has made that clear.”
“One of the things I’ve learned inside the perimeter here, the first almost hundred days, is at least half of what I read in the press – doesn’t matter what paper it is, Post, Journal, Times, whatever – it just doesn’t accurately reflect what goes on inside the perimeter,” he said. “On NAFTA, it’s clear: we’re going to either get a new good one, or we’re going to get out.”
Marlow noted there has also been some “intrigue” surrounding TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“Here’s another one where it looked like that was dead,” he said. “I was told Nigel Farage was on the show yesterday saying it’s dead, and then Paul Ryan comes out and says the U.S. could chart a path forward on it.”
“I don’t speak for Paul Ryan or Congress, but what the president has said is, this administration prefers bilateral deals because it maximizes our negotiating leverage,” Navarro responded. “I think there’s going to be a lot of talk about things like that because we’re getting ready for the G7 meetings, but today, I have no comment on that. What I can tell you is that we’re going to deal with NAFTA as the president promised.”
He promised there would soon be news on the administration’s determination to review trade deals beyond NAFTA.
“We’ve already undertaken an omnibus investigation of trade abuses,” he pointed out. “Don’t underestimate that. This is being done by the Department of Commerce with the USTR [the United States Trade Representative]. What the secretary of Commerce is going to do, and he is one strong trade warrior, he’s going to look at every way that foreign countries are having their way with us, and we’re going to basically figure out how to respond to that under the principle of fair and reciprocal trade.”
“There’s also the issue of the trade agreements themselves, and that will be dealt with at some point as well,” Navarro promised. “This administration is strongly, strongly committed to getting trade right because if we don’t get trade right, we don’t get the economy right. If we don’t get the economy right, we don’t get our tax base right. Nothing has changed in terms of that.”
Navarro said trade deficits “matter a great deal” to the Trump administration.
“The trade deficit right now is about $700 billion annually, the trade deficit in goods,” he noted. “Now, I say ‘the trade deficit in goods’ for your listeners, that basically means all the manufactured products. When you offset that with the positive surplus we have in services, our deficit is still $500 billion.”
“The best way, in my judgment, to think about the deficit is through the trade deficit in goods because those are the higher-paying manufacturing jobs, the production jobs, that we need basically to rebuild our economy, our manufacturing base, our supply chain, our tax base,” he contended.
“And so number one, we need to get that eliminated. We can do a tremendous amount to do that. Number two, and here’s the point I think is lost on a lot of the people who think deficits don’t matter: if you run these things consistently and persistently, at a large amount like we’re doing, we’re basically transferring the net worth of our country to foreigners. Those deficits are basically turned into debt we owe the world, and that comes due in the form of foreigners buying our bonds, our assets, our companies, our homes, our farmland,” he said.
“It’s a process that none other than that great arch-conservative Warren Buffett – and I say that tongue-in-cheek – called ‘conquest by purchase.’ When we run these large deficits, we’re basically turning over our country, over time, to the rest of the world. So it’s important to get the deficits down,” he urged.
“The other side will tell you, ‘Well, it’s driven by savings and investment patterns, and we save too little, and the Asian countries or whatever save a lot more, so they’re frugal. No. The reality is, if you take 100 percent tariff on motorcycles in India, like we have on Harley-Davidson, right, and you eliminate that tariff and we sell more Harleys to India, our deficit goes down, the savings rate in India goes down, investment flows adjust, and life is better for people in Milwaukee,” he maintained.
“You can go chapter and verse through every aspect of our trade deficit and trade abuses and see that if we correct those trade abuses – whether it’s illegal export subsidies, the theft of our intellectual property, or sweatshop labor – if we do that, our deficit will go down, and that will be a good thing,” Navarro promised.
Another promise Navarro made was that the H-1B visa program would be reformed.
“The executive order we had took a step towards that reform. The problem, as you know, is that we run a massive lottery system for those visas,” he said.
“What’s happened over time is you had some big companies essentially be able to basically stuff the lottery box with applications and skew that in their favor – so when the lottery hits, American workers never win the lottery in a way which is good for American workers. Which is to say, the lottery goes to foreign workers that come in and replace Americans, rather than providing the high-skilled workers that we may not be able to get, which is what the H-1B visa program was supposed to do,” he elaborated.
“That’s not going to happen anymore,” Navarro vowed. “We’ve got to move to a merit-based system, rather than a lottery. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Hire American. The bottom line is, the coherent message from the White House is that our visa programs are going to be structured in a way which does not result in the displacement of American workers by lower-wage people coming in under the disguise of visas that are supposed to be used for other purposes.”
Navarro painted a grim “big picture” of how poor trade deals have impacted American culture.
“They’re killing hope. They’re killing our manufacturing base and everything in between. That’s what we have to turn around. That $700 billion-a-year trade deficit in goods is essentially the proxy for the decline of the American economy, the American manufacturing base, all the weight and downward pressure that is put on wage growth,” he said.
“We have to turn that around. There’s a lot of different ways to do it, but trade reform has to be the tip of that spear. We need tax reform, trade reform, regulatory reform, and cheaper energy. We do all four points of that compass, and we will perform well as a country and an economy. That’s our mission,” Navarro declared.
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