White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Friday accused Wall Street “globalist billionaires” of trying to sabotage President Donald Trump’s handling of trade relations with China.
“Consider the shuttle diplomacy that is now going on by a self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers between the U.S. and China,” Navarro said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“As part of the Chinese government influence operations, globalist billionaires are putting a full-court press on the White House in advance of the G-20 in Argentina. The mission of these unregistered foreign agents … is to pressure this president into some kind of a deal,” he said.
The blustery language came ahead of a planned meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month, which many hope will lead to a deescalation of trade tensions. However, Navarro seemed to downplay chances for major progress at the upcoming meeting.
“How do you have a deal with somebody if they don’t even acknowledge your concerns,” Navarro said.
The White House trade hawk did not call out individuals by name during his speech, but he mentioned financial services giant Goldman Sachs several times. The New York Times reported in September that a group of Wall Street executives had intervened in the discussions with Beijing.
In a speech this week in Singapore, Henry Paulson, a former Treasury secretary who once led Goldman Sachs, referred to his “friend” Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and raised fears of an “economic iron curtain” being raised between the U.S. and China.
“Nobody wins a trade war,” he said. “And China can agree to enough of what President Trump seeks to enable a deal that he can be proud of — if it also marks the beginning of the negotiation of a high-ambition trade or investment agreement.”
Some analysts regard Navarro’s comments as a dig at Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who worked at Goldman Sachs from 1985 to 2002 and later helped establish several hedge funds.
Mnuchin is generally viewed as less of a hardliner on China than Navarro or U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who will be traveling to Buenos Aires for Trump’s meeting with Xi later this month.
Navarro and Mnuchin reportedly had a expletive-laden shouting match in May, when a U.S. delegation was in Beijing for talks with the Chinese. Navarro didn’t mention the Treasury secretary during his speech, but said talks with the Chinese should be left to Trump and Lighthizer.
“You’re in good hands with Donald J. Trump and Robert E. Lighthizer,” Navarro said. “You’re not in good hands when negotiations get outside of those two people. And I don’t presume to get in the middle of that and I don’t think anybody else should.”
Navarro said Wall Street should butt out of the U.S.-China discussions and instead focus on investing in America in places like Dayton, Ohio.
“When these unpaid foreign agents engage in this kind of diplomacy, so-called diplomacy, all they do is weaken this president and his negotiating position,” he said. “No good can come of it. If there is a deal, if and when there is a deal, it will be on President Donald J. Trump’s terms, not Wall Street terms.”
If Wall Street “continues to insinuate itself into these negotiations, there will be a stench, a stench around any deal that is consummated,” Navarro said.
By DOUG PALMER
Adam Behsudi contributed to this report.