Men on a mission

Here's a look at the US trade delegation in China to talk tariffs and trade issues

PETER NAVARRO White House Trade and Manufacturing Adviser

Mr Navarro, a former economics professor at the University of California-Irvine, holds the most hawkish views on Chinese trade policy, and is likely to oppose a short-term agreement that does little to change the course of China's industrial policy. He recently argued on Fox Business News that the tariffs are designed to compensate the US for "robbing our technology blind", adding: "If you allow China to basically capture the industries of the future, we won't have a future."

LARRY KUDLOW White House Economic Policy Adviser

Mr Kudlow, a long-time conservative commentator on CNBC, replaced Mr Gary Cohn as head of the National Economic Council.

Like Mr Cohn, Mr Kudlow has been an advocate for free markets and trade, and had criticised Mr Trump's tariff approach. But since taking the job, he has referred to tariffs as a negotiating tactic for fairer trade relationships. He has also acted to calm uneasy markets by saying a trade war has not started and the tariffs may not take effect. 

WILBUR ROSS US Commerce Secretary 

Mr Ross, the 80-year-old billionaire investor and steel executive, has been a strong advocate of tariffs to level the playing field for US firms. At the Department of Commerce, he heads stepped-up anti-dumping enforcement efforts and presided over global steel and aluminium tariffs enacted in March.

But his influence in trade policy has waned somewhat since Mr Trump rejected a deal he brokered last July at the last major US-China economic dialogue in Washington.

EVERETT EISSENSTAT Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Policy

Mr Eissenstat negotiates on behalf of the US at major international economic gatherings such as the G-20 and G-7 summits.

A long-time trade hand, he was most recently the chief trade lawyer for the Senate Finance Committee. Mr Eissenstat briefed reporters on Mr Trump's first US$50 billion in tariffs, saying China had used technology transfers from US companies "to establish its own competitive advantage in an unfair manner". 

STEVEN MNUCHIN US Treasury Secretary

A former banker, Hollywood film financier and Mr Donald Trump's campaign finance manager, Mr Mnuchin holds the top Cabinet post overseeing economic and financial regulatory policy.

The former Goldman Sachs executive was once viewed as one of the administration's "globalists" allied with former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn in opposition to tariffs.

But in recent months, he has voiced strong support for Mr Trump's tougher trade approach to China and steel and aluminium tariffs. The Treasury is now developing US investment restrictions on Chinese companies.

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER US Trade Representative    

Mr Lighthizer served as a deputy US trade representative in the 1980s, using tariff threats to win voluntary export restraints from Japan on autos and steel, earning a reputation as a tough negotiator.

The Washington trade lawyer has long expressed views that China has failed to live up to obligations that came with joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001. He led a "Section 301" intellectual property study alleging China misappropriated US tech, resulting in threatened tariffs on up to US$150 billion (S$200 billion) in Chinese goods. He said this week that changing the US relationship with China is "a big, big challenge" that would play out over years.  

TERRY BRANSTAD US Ambassador to China 

 Former Iowa governor Branstad brings to the talks a longstanding relationship with China and a strong perspective on agriculture - a US sector vulnerable to China's threatened tariff retaliation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who first met Mr Branstad in 1985 on an agricultural mission to Iowa, has described the former governor as an "old friend of China" after decades of farm commodities trade. But Mr Branstad has vowed to support Mr Trump's tougher approach to China on trade issues.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Men on a mission'. Print Edition | Subscribe