Several Senate Finance Committee members said they remain confused on the Trump administration’s trade strategy even after meeting with the director of the newly created White House National Trade Council. Peter Navarro, the former University of California-Irvine economist, spent about an hour with Democratic and Republican Finance Committee members Wednesday and laid out several trade principles. In a separate meeting Tuesday, GOP committee members spoke with White House international trade negotiator Jason Greenblatt.
Navarro “offered few details about the administration’s objectives on trade and no strategy for how it plans to achieve them,’’ Finance ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement about Wednesday’s presentation. “In some cases, the officials’ message conflicted with recent statements made by the president regarding his trade policy. In other cases, the message appeared to contradict Congressional directives on trade that became law in 2015.”
President Trump has said Navarro and Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross will set the administration’s trade agenda while working with the U.S. trade representative. Trump’s USTR nominee is Robert Lighthizer.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he stressed agriculture’s need for strong export markets. He said trade is especially important since USDA has forecast a drop in net farm income for a fourth year. Roberts suggested that Navarro, Greenblatt and eventually Lighthizer pursue trade in several markets such as Japan, and avoid policies that could harm agricultural sales overseas.