Trump to bring China hardliner Navarro to Xi meeting

Peter Navarro wrote book 'Death by China'

By KEVIN LIPTAK AND MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro

(CNN) - BUENOS AIRES — One of President Donald Trump's hardest-line advisers on China trade, Peter Navarro, will participate in a Saturday dinner meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Navarro's presence at the dinner table alongside Trump reflects a change in plans after the White House said Navarro wouldn't join Trump's more moderate advisers like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for the trip to Argentina.

The author of a book titled "Death by China," Navarro has butted heads with other advisers who have pushed Trump to adopt a more moderate approach toward China. He's pressed for maintaining the tough set of tariffs that have spurred tit-for-tat retaliation from Beijing.

The dinner scheduled for Saturday evening has been cast as a key encounter that could help the two leaders ease the trade tensions, or it could end in stalemate. Trump has threatened fresh tariffs and set a January deadline for raising the existing ones from 10% to 25% on a range of goods.

Trump, recently unnerved by shaky US markets and the closure announcement of General Motors factories in Ohio, has appeared more open to a trade breakthrough with China in the last several days, according to people who have spoken to him.

Navarro's presence at the dinner might signal an agreement is less likely, though Trump has suggested the final result of the meeting will largely depend on the leaders themselves.

Officials familiar with the meeting's planning said Trump himself determined Navarro, who flew to Argentina about Air Force One on Thursday, should attend. The President has openly expressed his fondness for hearing differing points of view on trade, and has fostered the intra-administration disputes that have marked his policy toward China.

More moderate aides such as Mnuchin and National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow have advocated for easing trade tensions with China, offering warnings that escalating the trade war would only make matters worse, and allow Trump's critics to pin even more of the blame for a shaky economy on him.

That had led to greater confidence among some advisers that Saturday's dinner with Xi could produce a breakthrough, even though no official has been willing to explicitly say they expect the two men to come to an agreement.

Trump himself has cast the meeting as a do-or-die encounter that will either result in a deal or an escalation in the trade war. But officials predicted a split outcome was more likely, including possibly an agreement to hold off on new tariffs for the time being while negotiations proceed.

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