White House trade advisor Navarro said to be excluded from China talks due to Mnuchin rift

White House economic advisor Peter Navarro, center, walks through a hotel lobby as he heads to the Diaoyutai State Guest House to meet Chinese officials during trade talks in Beijing on May 4.
(Nicolas Asfouri / AFP/Getty Images)

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro has been excluded from talks Thursday with China’s top economic envoy aimed at defusing a brewing trade war with the United States, two administration officials said.

The Chinese official, Vice Premier Liu He, will meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington. The deputy director of the National Economic Council, Everett Eissenstat, will also participate, according to the officials.

Navarro, 68, who once published a book titled “Death by China,” has long been hostile to the country. His exclusion from the meeting marks another downturn in his White House career, where he was isolated by other senior officials before the president promoted him earlier this year to his top rank of aides.

Navarro, a longtime faculty member at UC Irvine, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


The administration officials said Navarro wasn’t a team player when the United States sent a delegation led by Mnuchin earlier this month to Beijing to meet with Liu. The officials would not elaborate on Navarro’s behavior.

However, the website Axios reported that Navarro exhanged “sharp words” with Mnuchin during the trip over the Treasury secretary’s willingness to participate in the talks. An unnamed source told Axios that Navarro is at odds over Mnuchin’s policy toward China.

President Trump has proposed at least $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to punish the country for what he considers unfair trade behavior, including its acquisition of U.S. technologies. China has threatened to retaliate for the tariffs, which could be imposed after a public comment period ends May 22.

The outlook for avoiding a costly trade war between the world’s two biggest economies looked grim after Mnuchin’s China talks failed to make progress. But conditions have recently improved after Trump’s shock reversal this week of a ban on China’s ZTE Corp. accessing American technology.

Beijing praised the move, which could keep ZTE in business and save some 70,000 jobs.