WASHINGTON: President Trump’s top advisor on trade and manufacturing policy railed against “globalist billionaires” and Wall Street executives during a forceful, hour-long speech in Washington on Friday. Peter Navarro accused US business leaders of being “unregistered foreign agents” working for Beijing trying to pressure President Donald Trump into a trade deal with China.
“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. No good can come of this,” Navarro said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “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.”
The conspiracy to undermine the president outlined by Navarro is spearheaded by executives from Goldman Sachs along with unnamed “globalist elites” and a “self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers” — all of whom are “part of a Chinese government influenced operation” to pressure the Trump administration into a deal, Navarro alleged.
His comments came during a speech that veered between his attacks on Chinese trade practices and a new report he spearheaded about the health of the US defense industrial base. The report, helmed by the Pentagon’s head weapons buyer Ellen Lord and deputy assistant secretary for Industrial Policy Eric Chewning, identifies 300 areas where the US government needs to take action to support the supply chain.
One of the big concerns in the White House’s defense industrial base report is Chinese trade practices that might make things difficult for US defense firms.
In particular, the study calls out China for “predatory practices including state-sponsored dumping, public subsidies, and intellectual property theft are destroying commercial product lines and markets of domestic DoD suppliers.”
Navarro, a long time China hawk, praises Trump for having “the courage and wisdom to stand up to the globalist elites, to stand up to the countries of the world that are engaging in unfair trade practices.”
But if financial execs continue to attempt to take part in negotiations between the Trump administration and Beijing, he said, “there will be a stench around any deal that is consummated because it will have the imprimatur of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street.”
Navarro did not attempt to offer details about how Wall Street execs and Goldman Sachs are pressuring the White House. But his comments can be seen as pushback against former Goldman president and ex-Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, who left the White House earlier this year after losing the fight against starting a trade war with China.
Earlier this week, Cohn appeared to take a swipe at Navarro, remarking that Trump found “one economist on Amazon who thinks trade deficits matter, and he listens to him.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also a Goldman alum, and he has been known to disagree with Navarro and other White House trade hawks on the benefits of tariffs.
Navarro’s use of the term “globalist,” which is regularly used by far-right agitators to refer to Jews, comes amidst a rise in ant-Semitic attacks across the country, which many critics blame in part on Trump’s own fiery populist rhetoric.
His forceful remarks occurred at the same time that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were meeting with their counterparts from Beijing, Yang Jiechi and Wei Fenghe, at the State Department. The talks were rescheduled from last month after they were postponed in the wake of a new round of US arms sales to Taiwan and a Chinese warship almost ramming an American destroyer in the South China Sea.
While tensions in the strategic waterway appeared to dominate the talks, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi on Friday told reporters after the meeting that trade and economic relations between the two countries are “critical to the world economy,” adding, “ trade war, instead of leading to any solution, will only end up hurting both sides and the global economy.”