When talk turns to Donald Trump’s economic advisers, Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore are the two most familiar names. Yet there is another economist associated with Trump who is perhaps the most influential of the lot, and that is Peter Navarro at the University of California at Irvine.
Trump praised a Navarro book and documentary film critical of China, and while the economist has never met the candidate, he describes a campaign role as follows: "I now work closely with the campaign on issues related to the economy, trade, China, and foreign policy in Asia." He endorsed and defended Trump in a March essay, and given that relatively few academic economists have embraced the Trump candidacy, Navarro is plausibly a leading candidate for a top job in a Trump administration...
In the 1990s, Navarro ran for public office four times as a Democrat, losing races for mayor of San Diego, City Council, County Supervisor, and Congress. He described himself in a recent e-mail as "a Reagan-Trump Democrat abandoned long ago by my party on the economy, trade and foreign policy."
After his electoral attempts, he emphasized investment advising. In 2002 he published "If It’s Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks." ...
Navarro has lately been in a China phase, with three books, numerous articles and the documentary, and that is the work that has resonated with the Trump campaign. But which Navarro shows up on this topic, the scholar or the salesman? Both.
I expected to hate his "Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World," but instead I found it to be an intelligent discussion of the problems likely to result from a more assertive China. That said, Navarro does not come close to demonstrating his opening prediction that future war with China is “very likely.” In contrast, his "The Coming China Wars" is mostly a series of emotional diatribes against the Chinese government, opening with charges of cheating and slave labor and never much considering the positive side of Chinese economic growth.
His film is in this same polemical, neo-mercantilist vein. In an e-mail to me he writes: "The film features a priceless history of how Bill Clinton sold America down the Shanghai River." Trump's endorsement read: “DEATH BY CHINA is right on. This important documentary depicts our problem with China with facts, figures and insight. I urge you to see it.”
With Cowen, you have to read between the lines but it looks to me that he thinks Navarro is a nutjob.
The full profile, well worth reading, is here.