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White House officials express hopes that coronavirus will advance ‘America First’ agenda

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FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, U.S. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks during a television interview at the White House, in Washington, U.S.A.  The U.S. is threatening to pull the United States out of the 145-year-old Universal Postal Union, as Navarro said they opposes options being considered that would maintain the current limits. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Associated Press

  • For some administration officials, the coronavirus outbreak could present an economic opening in the US.
  • As President Donald Trump vies for re-election in November, it could advance an “America First” agenda.
  • The administration has renewed focus on ways to “strategically” move certain supply chains back to the US since the outbreak in late 2019, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told POLITICO on Wednesday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Despite growing fears about how the novel coronavirus could disrupt American business and financial markets, the Trump administration has maintained an rosy outlook toward the economy in recent days. 

Administration officials have appeared hesitant to align with independent forecasts saying the fast-spreading respiratory illness could chip away at global growth. And for some, there is even a potential tailwind: that the outbreak could advance an “America First” agenda as President Donald Trump vies for re-election in November. 

In an interview with POLITICO published Wednesday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said it was “cynical” to say that officials saw room for economic gains from what has been named COVID-19. 

But the administration has renewed focus on ways to “strategically” move certain supply chains back to the US since the outbreak in late 2019, he said, a signature campaign promise for Trump. The White House press office declined to comment to Business Insider.

“All we’re doing here is seeing the chess board,” Navarro told POLITICO. “This is a case where, for our public health and economic and national security, we need to do just that.”

Navarro has established himself as the most hawkish trade adviser under Trump, but similar sentiment was echoed by others in the White House in recent weeks.

In January, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coronavirus could “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

“Well, first of all, every American’s heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus. So, I don’t want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” Ross said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “But the fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain.”

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