In a letter to the Indy in 2011, local resident Peter Navarro, a registered Democrat at the time, characterized himself as “an environmentally sensitive, fiscally conservative Clintonite.”
Last week, Navarro was appointed to serve as assistant to Republican President-elect Donald Trump in a newly created post as director of trade and industrial policy.
Over the past decade, Navarro established himself as a critic of China policies, issues mirrored in Trump’s campaign salvos over short-comings in the U.S. economy. “We share a common vision of what’s wrong with the economy,” Navarro said in a recent Los Angeles Times interview. Navarro even provided his observations on China topics in briefings for FBI agents in Los Angeles, according to his resume, which also reflects his wide-ranging research interests in 13 books, 75 scholarly articles and 85 published commentaries.
Navarro, who could not be reached for comment, received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1986 even while working as a lecturer and assistant professor at UC San Diego. While in San Diego, he ran four times for public office, including a bid for mayor in 1992 where he won the popular vote in the primary. In 1989, he became a UC Irvine professor of economics and public policy and now teaches in the business school.
Earlier, he worked as a policy analyst for a Washington, D.C., consulting firm and as an energy analyst for the state of Massachusetts and the federal government, according to his UCI website. He also served in the Peace Corps in Thailand in 1973.
His most recent article topics include “The Death of the Large Lecture Hall,” for the American Journal of Distance Education this year, and “Cultural Genocide in East Turkistan Must be Stopped,” for Perspektif magazine in 2014.
His first documentary film “Death By China,” narrated by Martin Sheen, is now available on Netflix, but made its debut in March of 2012 at a theater in Newport Beach. Later that year, Navarro allowed the now defunct Laguna Beach Film Society to screen the documentary as a fundraiser for the baseball program at Laguna Beach High School, where his stepson Alex attended school.
Navarro’s latest book and companion documentary film series is “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World,” published last November. More than two decades ago, his focus was on another newly elected president, writing “Bill Clinton’s Agenda for America” in 1993.
In the letter to the Indy, Navarro described himself as a regular CNBC contributor “generally known in the media field as a straight-shooting economist rather than a right- or left-winged ideologue.”
“I have a long political history of supporting environmental causes,” he said in the letter, a rebuttal to another letter writer.
He and his wife, architect and former Design Review Board member Leslie LeBon, bought a 1927 house in the upper Victoria Beach neighborhood in 2010 and spent more than a year restoring its three separate buildings.
Navarro described his book, “The Coming China Wars,” as a sobering analysis of how China has cost the U.S. millions of jobs through its unfair trade practices. “I do like to ‘think globally’ but reserve the right to ‘act locally’,” he said.
His website says Navarro’s expertise lies in his “big picture” application of macroeconomic analysis of the business environment and financial markets for investors and corporate executives.
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