Thanks Trump. Alaska could be collateral damage in growing GOP trade war

China has more to lose in a trade war than the United States, according to an adviser to President Trump who praises his boss as a courageous visionary.

It appears that economist Peter Navarro, an extremist on tariffs who claims to be an expert on China, doesn't know or care how much Alaska has to lose with the haphazard Republican trade war.

China bought more than $1.32 billion worth of goods from Alaska in 2017, most of it seafood. The retaliation to Trump's tariffs will cost Alaskans.

In a letter last month, the Alaska Congressional delegation told Trump that it would be "deeply regrettable" if other nations retaliated against the Alaska fishing industry with a tariff fight. The regrettable happened last week with a 25 percent Chinese tariff on Alaska seafood.

As the Alaska delegation put it in their polite letter, "the targeted exports would be made uncompetitive in an instant."

The collateral damage could extend to the dream of a natural gas pipeline. China is threatening tariffs on energy imports. This back-and-forth fight may add billions in costs to a gas pipeline. It already has added uncertainty and delay to a project that has seen plenty of both.

On Monday, Trump responded to the Chinese retaliation by calling for a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion more in Chinese goods, with more to come.

Alaska political and business leaders should be alarmed, even if it means calling on Trump to develop a coherent trade strategy to replace the carnival barker act.

Navarro, who ran for office five times in California and lost five times, made his views on China clear long before joining the White House. He wrote a book and a film called "Death by China."

The movie includes an animated sequence showing a Chinese knife stabbing the United States, spilling lots of cartoon blood and images showing the Chinese flag flying over the White House in the days before Trump. 

"And please, help defend America and protect your family, don't buy 'Made in China," Navarro says in the introduction to his film.

Navarro likes attention and overheated language. He is the guy who said of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,  "There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump."

Navarro, a former business professor at the University of California, also believes there is a special place in hell for China, which he blames for whatever ails the U.S. manufacturing economy. 

In recent talks in Beijing, China brought up the prospect of increasing energy imports—which could include gas from Alaska—and other purchases from the United States.

Navarro says the Chinese underestimated the man he likes to call "Donald J. Trump."

“If they thought that they could buy us off cheap with a few extra products sold and allow them to continue to steal our intellectual property and crown jewels, that was a miscalculation,” Navarro told reporters.

In 2006, he called for a 43 percent across-the-board tariff on Chinese goods, claiming that would make up for the advantages gained by China through unfair trade practices. In 2016, he said that China would respect Trump and the high tariffs would force negotiation.

He hasn't spoken much about the economic impact of his ideas on consumers.

Trump, who has falsely claimed that trade wars are "easy to win," is now threatening tariffs on $450 billion in Chinese goods, according to Navarro. Spreading confusion may be the Trump negotiating strategy,  which is hopelessly incompetent.

A 2017 article in Foreign Policy faulted Navarro for the great deal he does not know about China.

“Navarro is not known in any China circles,” said James McGregor, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

McGregor told the magazine that Navarro's works  “have close to zero credibility with people who know the country" and that he offers a cartoonish caricature. In one part of his book, Navarro said that those who buy Chinese goods are risking their lives by doing so.

“If you fancy death by explosion, fire, or electric shock, you can choose from a wide selection of booby-trapped extension cords, fans, lamps, overheating remote controls, exploding cell phones, and self-immolating boom boxes," he wrote.

Maybe the worst part of the Republican trade war is that Navarro and Trump are under the illusion that they've got this all figured out.

"We can no longer be the stupid country," Trump declared in a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington. "We want to be the smart country."

Trump's scattershot trade policies are anything but smart.




Dermot Cole2 Comments