The administration of President Donald Trump wants manufacturing jobs to make up about a fifth of the American workforce, said Peter Navarro, tapped by Trump to lead the newly created National Trade Council. Navarro told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday that part of his job at the National Trade Council is matching the needs of industry with the skills of U.S.
PN: What we’re concerned about is American workers, American domestic manufacturers. We’ll trade with any country in the world as long as that trade is fair. We will defend ourselves against cheating. We will renegotiate bad trade deals that have taken jobs and offshored our production. And one of the big things I’m concerned about, Joe, is not just the loss of our manufacturing base, but the loss of our defense industrial base because we no longer have the capability to put the airplanes in the sky and the ships on the seas to defend ourselves over the longer term. So, talk softly, carry a big stick and eventually – once we get our manufacturing and defense industrial base back and work with everybody. And I think it’s going to be great. President Trump is the most positive individual in the world and every time a little bit of ink flows out of that pen there’s a lot of jobs created.”
Andrew Sorkin: Peter, can I ask you – on the manufacturing front, and we’ve talked about it a lot in terms of bringing back jobs, whether we are fighting an old war, if you will, given AI, and robotics, and all of that, it’s going to be very difficult – on a one-for-one basis – to bring back meaningful jobs to this country given the fact that computers and robotics have taken over. How do you think about that issue?
PN: That’s a great issue, Andrew, and that’s kind of the narrative that says, ‘Well, the robot is going to eat our jobs. Why bother trying to get them back?’ Let me say two things about that. First of all, the most advanced country in the world in terms of robotics is Germany. It has 20% of its workforce in manufacturing. We have 8%. So, that’s number 1. Number 2: Robots in the factories? That’s fine, if the robots are here and they’re helping to build our defense industrial base. But, remember, the big misconception here is the jobs that we really need exist in the big boxes with names like Ford and GM on ‘em. Those big boxes that we see in this country are basically assembly plants assembling foreign components putting in cars that are branded ‘American.’ What we need to do here, Andrew, reclaim our supply chain. And a lot of that supply chain will have automation, will have high technology, but it has a lot of workers in it. That’s what we need to get back. So let’s work with automation. Let’s be innovative. Let’s increase our productivity. We can increase our wages when we increase our productivity. But we can’t be sending our jobs offshore.