1/17/2020

Navarro’s Unintentionally Hilarious Apologies for Protectionism

"By my count, Peter Navarro’s op-ed in today’s pages – “Give Trump’s Tariffs a Fair Test” – is the seventh such piece that you’ve published by him since he became Donald Trump’s trade shaman. Each of these essays is a cascade of contradictions and confusions so immense that even listing them would require an unusually long op-ed. But two examples will suffice.

First, in a March 6th, 2017, piece Mr. Navarro argued that U.S. trade deficits inflict such harm on the American economy that U.S. trade restrictions are justified as a means of trying to reduce these deficits. Yet in today’s op-ed he boasts that the “threat of auto tariffs has likewise drawn billions of dollars of new foreign direct investment from the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.” Mr. Navarro apparently doesn’t understand the elementary fact that, because every dollar invested in the U.S. by foreigners is a dollar not spent on U.S. exports, the investments about which Mr. Navarro today boasts promote the very trade deficits that, in other contexts, he bemoans.

Second, Mr. Navarro commits the sophomoric error of confusing correlation with causation. Yes, today’s U.S. economy is booming. But economics tells us that, contrary to Mr. Navarro’s claim, this good performance is fueled, not by tariffs, but by the tax cuts and deregulation for which the Trump administration can take credit."