World

Trump picks fellow billionaire for reform

US president-elect's choices signal push towards overhaul of economic policy

WASHINGTON: US president-elect Donald Trump has named billionaire Carl Icahn, a vocal critic of what he calls government overregulation, to serve as a special adviser to overhaul "strangling regulations".

He also tapped Mr Peter Navarro, an outspoken China critic, to head the White House National Trade Council, a new office that will oversee trade and industrial policy - the latest sign that Mr Trump is moving ahead with plans to overhaul US economic policy.

Mr Icahn, 80, is known as an aggressive and activist investor. He will not serve as a government employee, will not receive a salary, and will not be bound by ethics rules requiring him to divest his investments.

He said President Barack Obama has crippled business owners with what is more than US$1 trillion (S$1.45 trillion) in new regulations and over 750 billion hours dealing with paperwork.

"It's time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best - create jobs and support communities," he said.

Mr Icahn is already reported to have helped Mr Trump pick candidates to fill his cabinet, including a climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

"(Mr Icahn) is not only a brilliant negotiator, but also someone who is innately able to predict the future, especially having to do with finances and economies," Mr Trump said in a statement on Wednesday.

TENSIONS

Mr Trump's appointment of Mr Narvarro signalled he is also moving to reshape relations with China after heightening tensions between the world's two largest economies with a series of snubs and criticisms.

A professor at the University of California, Irvine, Mr Navarro's books include Death by China, in which he criticised Beijing for waging an economic war by subsidising its manufacturing industry and blocking American imports.

Mr Trump's promise to return US manufacturing jobs that have moved abroad by cutting federal regulation and attacking what he described as unfair competition from China was a central pillar of his campaign platform.

He described Mr Navarro as "a visionary economist", saying the brash investor would "develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores".

Like many of Mr Trump's picks for his future administration, Mr Navarro and Mr Icahn are staunch loyalists of the divisive president-elect.

Mr Icahn is a New York City native like Mr Trump. He began his career on Wall Street in 1961, and has held substantial or controlling stakes in numerous American companies over the years, including Western Union, Netflix, Apple and eBay.

He also owned the last glitzy Trump casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Trump Taj Mahal, until it finally failed and closed last month after going through two bankruptcy reorganisations since it opened in 1990. - AFP

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