Trump’s ‘China Whisperer’ Stephen Schwarzman Says Trade War ‘Damages Everyone’

Stephen Schwarzman
October 8, 2019

When the world's two biggest economies are fighting, everyone feels it.

Stephen Schwarzman, the multibillionaire chairman of Blackstone Group, has played an active role on behalf of the Trump Administration to help smooth over trade negotiations with China.

"China itself has its own internal complexity," Schwarzman told Cheddar Tuesday. "On sensitive issues like trade, they have their hardliners and they have their reformers. It's up to them to figure out what they're gonna put on the table."

Schwarzman points out that the U.S. and China make up about 35 to 40 percent of the world's economy, which means a trade dispute between the two is felt across the globe.

"The scale of this is so big that unless you find some way to figure out how to work together, it damages everyone around you — all countries. We're seeing that already," Schwarzman said. "Virtually every country is going in reverse, and everybody's economy is slowing."

Schwarzman has had the ear of the past five presidents and says he still communicates with President Trump.

"I try to be helpful. I'm not a government employee," Schwarzman said. "I'm a concerned citizen-type. You try to do the right thing for your country if you can."

Cheddar

With a net worth of $16.6 billion, according to Forbes, the man often called one of the most influential people in the world is also concerned with some ideas being proposed by Democratic candidates gunning for the White House in 2020.

He's particularly critical about the Wealth Tax plans championed by contenders Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Schwarzman says the idea to tax an individual's net worth could discourage investment and put business owners on the ropes if most of that value is likely tied up in a non-liquid asset like their company.

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"There better be a better way. There are around 220 countries in the world and only four of them have a wealth tax," Schwarzman said. "If this were such an effective mechanism, there'd be a lot more than four."

It is one of the few issues where Democrats aren't eager to use Europe as an example. In 1990, a dozen European countries had a wealth tax. Today, only Norway, Spain, and Switzerland still have it. In France, the tax led to an exodus of an estimated 42,000 millionaires between 2000 and 2014, according to financial paper Les Echos. French President Emmanuel Macron scratched the policy last year.

"It's discouraging to people for business formation," Schwarzman said. "There will be other countries that say to that person, 'we won't hurt you,' 'we want you to be here.'"