WASHINGTON — A significant choice about China tariffs is looming, and Ron Vara, Peter Navarro’s hawkish alter ego, has re-emerged to discuss some ideas on the situation.
President Trump should decide within days whether to proceed with another round of tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese products, which are supposed to move into effect on Sunday. Mr. Navarro, a senior trade advisor to Mr. Trump along with a China skeptic, has cast doubt on the openness of Beijing to overhaul its commerce practices and has advocated that the tariffs as an instrument to induce China to change its own behaviour.
He is not the only one making there. To exemplify these issues, Mr. Navarro exploited his literary muse, Ron Vara, in a memo that’s circulating in Washington. Sent in an email address allegedly belonging to Ron Vara, the memo highlights public opinion in favor of retaining the pressure on China with much more tariffs.
“Much disagreement happening,” Ron Vara wrote, speaking to the decision about whether to roll back or twice down China tariffs. “Here is 1 side which hasn’t been in focus. Ideas?”
Ron Vara is the literary character that Mr. Navarro generated and mentioned as a specialist over a dozen occasions in five of his 13 novels, where he provided searing critiques of China. Mr. Navarro’s usage of this fabricated origin emerged in October after an Australian scholar reviewed all of Mr. Navarro’s writing and discovered that one of his sources was imaginary.
Mr. Navarro confirmed the authenticity of the memo. It is not clear how widely it was distributed.
“On a daily basis, I speak to, or correspond with, people that I respect, and don’t necessarily agree with, to receive their thoughts on issues critical to American workers and the American people,” Mr. Navarro said. “This kind of active dialogue makes for the best possible decisions.”
He added: “Such a free exchange of ideas is essential to the success of an administration that is simultaneously putting up the best economic numbers in a half century and achieving success after success on the trade front.” He described a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico that is on track to become law as “just the latest big win.”
The memo does not show Mr. Navarro formally endorsing any views, but it lives up to his reputation for seeking to force deep structural changes to China’s economy through tariffs. It outlines the “keep tariffs argument,” which accuses China of stepping up American farm purchases of pork and soybeans only because of its domestic swine fever outbreak. And he claims that recent changes to Chinese law run counter to promises by the country’s officials to protect American intellectual property.
The memo also asserts that Mr. Trump’s tariffs are protecting the United States economy without having any negative effect on growth or the stock market.
And, in a twist on market certainty, it suggests that Mr. Trump could calm jittery investors by publicly backing away from a deal: “Get uncertainty out of the market by announcing NO deal until after the election and ride the tariffs to victory.”
Trump administration officials have been giving mixed signals about the fate of the tariffs and the significance of the Sunday deadline. Mr. Navarro, who has been pushing privately for the most ambitious deal possible, has made few public remarks about the China negotiations in recent weeks.
Amid the jockeying within the Trump administration, officials often try to arrange for television anchors or commentators to convey their views in hopes that Mr. Trump will watch them and be persuaded.
Mr. Navarro’s memo goes on to cite a recent commentary from Jim Cramer, the CNBC host, who made the case that the strength of America’s economy means that it can withstand any drag from a more protracted trade dispute with China.
It also includes an analysis from Lawrence B. Lindsey, who was director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush and makes the argument that another round of China tariffs would do minimal harm to the United States. However, Mr. Lindsey’s analysis predicts that both countries could be enticed to settle for a transactional agreement before Christmas that entails China’s purchasing more American farm products in exchange for some tariff relief. That scenario, he writes, would be akin to a “Yuletide Regifting” — where “each side will be giving the other something it wants to get rid of anyway.”