The Corner

Economy & Business

The Swamp: Navarro Nucor Edition

Peter Navarro and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer chat at the White House in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal has a story today about the ties between President Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, and the biggest steel company in the U.S. — Nucor Corp. It is particularly interesting in light of the stiff steel tariffs successfully pushed by Navarro, which he championed ever since he joined the administration.

The WSJ reports:

Nucor paid $1 million in 2011 to the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of utility customers in San Diego County, Calif., which in turn paid Mr. Navarro’s production company to make the film, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. . . .

The movie chronicles the erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base and China’s rise as an industrial power since the 1990s. Mr. Navarro co-wrote a book by the same name that was published in 2011. In the movie, Tom Danjczek, then-president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, points to the problem of Chinese steel overproduction due to government subsidies.

Dan DiMicco, who was chief executive of Nucor from 2000 to 2012, said the company paid for the film through the San Diego nonprofit at Mr. Navarro’s request.

As the Journal documents:

Mr. Navarro is now a top trade adviser in the White House, with a growing public profile for his get-tough views on trade. His connection with Nucor underscores the wide-ranging, historic ties between Mr. Trump’s top trade advisers and the U.S. steel industry, which stands to benefit from tariffs the Trump administration recently imposed.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a Wall Street veteran, spent more than $1 billion to purchase distressed steel firms and assembled them into a new company, International Steel Group Inc., which he sold for $4.5 billion to the London-based Mittal family in 2004, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. He served on ArcelorMittal’s board until becoming commerce secretary last year.

Gilbert Kaplan, Mr. Trump’s nominee as undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, is a former steel-industry lobbyist. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer represented American steel companies as a lawyer in private practice before his current turn as the government’s top trade negotiator. The USTR’s nominated deputy, Jeffrey Gerrish, and his general counsel, Stephen Vaughn, lobbied on trade laws for U.S. Steel Corp.

These strong ties between Trump officials and the steel industry should raise some questions about recent policy decisions that will overwhelmingly benefit the industry and that economists agree will hurt Americans’ welfare.

Also, these two posts by George Mason University professor Donald Boudreaux are worth reading as they are correcting inaccurate claims made by Navarro on CNBC recently about trade and the impacts of tariffs.

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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