President Trump's top trade advisor, economist Peter Navarro, is arguing that it is imperative for U.S. national security interests to reduce the trade deficit, in both a new Wall Street Journal op-ed and during a talk Monday at the National Association of Business Economics.
"Running large and persistent trade deficits facilitates a pattern of wealth transfers offshore," Navarro writes, arguing that if this wealth comes in the form of industries critical to national defense, it could be devastating to security.
Make America safer, but poorer: Navarro notes that the U.S. doesn't house a "single company that can make flat-panel displays for military aircraft or night-vision goggles," as an example of how free-trade globalism has hurt national security. But in order for this to become the case, the U.S. would have to be suffering under trade embargoes from every nation that makes flat-panel displays, and all of their trade partners too. If military experts see this as likely, passing laws to require domestic production of flat-panel displays would be prudent. But it will cost taxpayers more for such an arrangement, right at the time when the President is trying to increase the efficiency of defense spending.