NEW CASTLE, Pa. (KDKA) — Director of White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro visited a steel forging plant in New Castle on Thursday.
He delivered a message, saying American jobs in the steel industry are coming back.
“Remember without those steel tariffs, the aluminum industry was about to go extinct, and the steel industry was really on life support,” said Navarro.
Long before he met Donald Trump, Navarro — an economist — warned about America’s trade deficit, especially with China.
Now working in the White House on trade policy, Navarro toured North American Forgemasters, a joint venture of Ellwood Group and Scot Forge.
The tour was arranged by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Butler Republican, who represents the area.
“We’re coming back. The last couple years under President Trump, the defense industry is coming back,” said Navarro.
The Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer joined Navarro in the tour of a plant that makes 72-foot-long main propulsion shafts for Virginia class attack submarines.
“They’ve innovated in the process out here by not only investing money — but by thinking through it differently to save me about $30 million on the unit,” noted Spencer. “That is exactly what the U.S. Navy likes to see because at the end of the day, we’re entrusted with your treasure, your taxpayers’ dollars, and we’re trying to get the most efficient, effective product we can.”
“And we’re buying it right here in the United States of America,” added Spencer.
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano talks with Dr. Peter Navarro.
Following the tour, KDKA money editor Jon Delano sat down with Navarro, who said he works with the president to increase manufacturing jobs, which he says are on the rise.
“It’s all good. We’re at a half-million manufacturing jobs and counting.”
And Navarro points to this region, in particular.
“This is no longer the Rust Belt. It’s the Trump hub of prosperity, and it’s because manufacturing is coming back.”
He credits President Trump’s trade policies.
“We have trade policies which defend American workers against all this unfair trade,” Navarro said. “And we have other kinds of policies that are designed to promote American workers.”
Those include buy American and hire American policies.
But it’s the tariffs that are controversial.
In Pittsburgh on Thursday, a coalition said those tariffs were raising costs for consumers.
“The impact on consumers is also very large,” said Prof. Erica Owen of the University of Pittsburgh. “So some estimates suggest that the additional cost to consumers is going to be $700 to $1,000.”
Navarro disputes those numbers, saying countries like China actually offset the tariffs.
“Think of it this way,” Navarro said. “We put a 10 percent tariff on, and then they devalue their currency by 10 percent. That’s pretty much a wash.”
“The other thing they’re doing is slashing their prices to offset the tariffs,” he added.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is not so sure and said the administration engages in policy-by-tweet.
“I don’t know if those numbers are correct, but I do know that we’re paying the price of a very erratic approach,” Casey said.
Especially with China.
“They’ve been a bad actor, and they’ve been cheating a lot,” Casey said of China. “We should have a response to that, but it has to be a response that is strategic, that is bipartisan.”
But Navarro insists President Trump was the first to act against China.
“They don’t play by the rules, and they’re more authoritarian than ever,” said Navarro. “Their economy has grown from a little over $1 trillion GDP to $12 trillion. They’ve basically grown their economy on the backs of American workers and at the expense of closed American factories.”
But Judy Bannon — executive director of Cribs for Kids — a local non-profit that sells $50 Chinese-made baby cribs to the needy to fight Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, said she had a different experience with tariffs.
“As the tariffs started, we had to raise the price to $54.99, and then to $59.99,” said Bannon.