Navarro to get a higher WH title |

Navarro to get a higher WH title

Peter Navarro, whose influence on trade policy was seen as diminished when his office was moved under the National Economic Council last year, is being promoted to an "assistant to the president" role — a move likely to elevate his ability to impact looming trade actions and negotiations, sources briefed on the personnel decision told Inside U.S. Trade last week.

Navarro's new title and presumed additional influence comes as the White House is considering punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and other countries — a move that alarms U.S. agricultural producers who fear retaliation.

A former GOP leadership staffer said the personnel move suggested a shift further away from the trade priorities that congressional Republicans have laid out for Trump in recent White House meetings on trade issues, including his decision on what, if anything, to do about his administration's Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports, Inside U.S. Trade said.

"If his history is any guide, Navarro's return to the West Wing would certainly send a signal that the administration isn't listening to anything Republicans in Congress are trying to tell the president on their priorities and what's important in their states and districts," the source said. "Between them, I don't think either Navarro or [Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer have ever tried to count to 218."

Navarro was the author of an executive order to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Trump did not move forward with it after objections from other senior officials, Inside U.S. Trade said. Those officials included Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.