‘Stand down,’ China hawk Peter Navarro tells Wall Street’s would-be brokers of trade war truce

  • Tough China critic’s remarks came ahead of planned Xi-Trump sit-down on sidelines of G20 summit
  • Author of Death by China has predicted US victory in months-long trade battle
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 1:48am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 10:18pm

Wall Street executives attempting to broker a truce in the United States’ trade war with China should stand down, Peter Navarro, a top White House adviser and influential China hawk, said at an event on Friday.

“The mission of these unregistered foreign agents, that’s what they are, is to pressure [US President Donald Trump] into some kind of a deal,” Navarro said, referring to overtures by US financial executives ahead of Trump’s planned sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in three weeks.

“If there is a deal, it will be on Trump’s terms, not on Wall Street’s terms,” Navarro said. “Trump has done an amazing job. He doesn’t need the help of Wall Street, he doesn’t need the help of Goldman Sachs.”

Trump doesn’t need the help of Wall Street, he doesn’t need the help of Goldman Sachs
Peter Navarro

The outspoken economist – who wrote a book titled Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action did not name any individuals during his remarks at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

But Wall Street executives, including former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson, have met with Chinese leaders regularly.

Paulson said in a speech at a Bloomberg forum in Singapore on Tuesday that the trajectory of US-China ties posed “a risk to the very functioning of the international system”.

John Thornton, former president of Goldman Sachs and a professor at Tsinghua University, met former senior Chinese officials, including ex-premier Zhu Rongji, during a trip to Beijing last month.

Paulson urged China to further open its market, protect intellectual property and work with the US on big issues like North Korea. But he also encouraged Washington to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership and generally open up trade negotiations with China.

US-China divisions ‘could lead to an economic Iron Curtain’

In September, senior Wall Street executives met Chinese officials and bankers in Beijing to find ways to strengthen US-China financial ties, The New York Times reported. The group – which included executives from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and the private equity firm Blackstone Group – were planning to meet with Xi’s right-hand man, Vice-President Wang Qishan, the Times reported.

Navarro’s remarks came with all eyes focused on whether the world’s two largest economies can reach a truce in their months-long tit-for-tat trade war.

But he also expressed deep scepticism about any potential deal with China, adding that it was not only about “buying more soybeans and corn”.

“The game that China has played – and they played people in the Bush administration like a violin – is to do the tap dance of economic dialogue,” Navarro said. “That’s all they want to do. They want to get us to the bargaining table, sound reasonable and talk their way while they keep having their way with us,” he said.

“We are negotiating with everybody around the world, people that we can trust there is a deal,” he said of trade talks with Korea, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. “But when it comes to China, it’s sui generis,” he said, using a Latin term meaning “unique”.

What trade war? US states lining up business at China Import Expo

The attack from Navarro came on the same day the two sides kicked off a high-level meeting in Washington on diplomacy and security.

The Chinese delegation is led by Yang Jiechi, the country’s top diplomat, who will host the dialogue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Yang is the most senior Chinese official to visit Washington since the trade war started in July.

In Tuesday’s midterm elections, Trump’s Republican Party lost control of the House of Representatives while slightly adding to its majority in the Senate.

Analysts have suggested the trade war could move up in priority on Trump’s agenda as the president seeks to score political points in foreign policy, with the Republicans’ domestic agenda potentially stalled by the Democrats’ majority in the House.

Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council, has said he is confident the US will prevail in the trade battle.

White House must listen to wise voices over US-China trade war

He is seen as closely aligned with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who spearheaded his department’s investigation into China’s trade and investment policies.

That inquiry provided the justification for the US trade office slapping punitive tariffs on US$50 billion worth of annual imports from China in July, plunging the two nations into a confrontation filled with further retaliatory tariff actions.

In Death by China, Navarro called China “the planet’s most efficient assassin”, accusing it of transgressions ranging from unfair trade practices to targeting global dominance in new industrial sectors to attempting to undermine the US food supply chain.