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White House official Navarro: US can institute tariffs without causing a global trade war

  • The U.S. can institute tariffs on foreign goods without sparking a global trade war, Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said in an interview.
  • "He's firm but flexible," Navarro said of President Donald Trump. "We're working hard to restructure the trading environment that works not just for Americans but for the rest of the world."
  • He spoke after Trump earlier this month announced 25 percent duties on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

The U.S. can institute tariffs on foreign goods without sparking a global trade war, a senior White House economic official said Thursday.

In slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Trump administration is acting in the nation's economic and national security interests and not looking to provoke, Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said in a CNBC interview.

"Our allies have got to understand that we're simply defending ourselves against what's been an unfair relationship for many, many years," Navarro said on "Squawk on the Street." "This is going to work out fine. The world's going to be a better place."

Navarro spoke after President Donald Trump earlier this month announced 25 percent duties on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Along with the tough trade talk, though, came an assurance that other nations will be able to take advantage of carve-outs so long as they negotiate deals that are more friendly to the U.S.

Markets, though, have been on edge about the possibility of retaliation from other trade partners.

"He's firm but flexible," Navarro said of the president. "This administration has cut taxes, has done tremendous deregulation, we've unleashed our energy sector. We're working hard to restructure the trading environment that works not just for Americans but for the rest of the world."

The administration has railed against the trade deficit with the rest of the world, which now stands at about $57 billion as Americans consume more than they produce.

That thinking, though, has been challenged by economists who see the tariffs as protecting some jobs in the near term while threatening a greater number in the longer term.

"It's courageous what [Trump's] doing, because he's taking such heat from the swamp and all the usual suspects. Right now, it's not fair," Navarro said.

In addition to addressing the tariff controversy, Navarro spoke about the appointment this week of Larry Kudlow, a CNBC senior contributor and longtime economist, as head of the National Economic Council.

"I find him to be a smart, warm individual. He's going to come here and be a team player and it's going to be great," Navarro said of his new colleague. Trump "needs diverse opinions. I think it's a great choice. Everybody here is going to welcome him with open arms and we're looking forwards not backwards."