President Donald Trump will likely find it harder to put in place trade policies designed to protect American jobs and technology thanks to chief of staff John Kelly’s latest maneuver.
Kelly has put the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, run by economist Peter Navarro, under the National Economic Council, headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, Politco reports. The move means that Navarro, a strong voice for nationalist trade policies inside the White House, will now report to Cohn, who has led the opposition to many of the policies–such as tariffs–proposed by Navarro.
In other words, the globalists have mounted a hostile takeover of the nationalist trade office in the White House.
Giving Cohn supervision over the trade shop is a strange choice. Trump has expressed frustration at the pace of change when it comes to trade policy, telling Kelly “I want tariffs.” CNN reported that Trump has directed much of his frustration about the lack of progress on trade at Cohn. Now Cohn will be the boss of the main advocate of tariffs in the White House.
The globalist faction in the White House hopes Navarro will leave following what amounts to a demotion. Navarro, however, tried to downplay the change in a statement to Politico.
“I’m a chain of command guy and will follow Chief Kelly’s orders,” Navarro said in the statement to POLITICO. “The chief has assured me I will continue to have the same seat and voice at the president’s decision-making table.”
Kelly’s decision to have Navarro report to Cohn, who has pushed behind the scenes to temper Trump’s hardline instincts, could further isolate the former economics professor. Cohn is Navarro’s “nemesis,” according to an associate of Navarro’s. The two men have sometimes yelled at each other during White House trade meetings, and Cohn has often been dismissive of Navarro’s policy proposals.
In the statement, Navarro said there is “a certain logic to having a Harvard Ph.D. economist join the National Economic Council,” adding that he was promised that his office “would remain an essential part of the policy development process.”
Navarro has found himself with fewer allies in the White House since the departure of Steve Bannon and other trade hawks. Navarro’s West Wing critics hope the reassignment will lead to his ultimate resignation, though people close to Navarro say he has no intention of leaving.
Navarro is not quite alone on trade in the administration. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is also an advocate for trade policies that would protect American interests and recently gave a speech laying out the framework for a new approach to trade. In that speech, Lighthizer described China’s mercantilism as “an unprecedented threat.”