Romney to Abandon China Stance If Elected, Greenberg Says

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, participates in a presidential debate with U.S. President Barack Obama at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, will reverse his position on China if elected, said Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former chairman of American International Group Inc.

After the election “if Romney is successful, I think he will change his mind,” Greenberg told Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu on the “In the Loop” program today.

Romney has said President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has been too lenient on trade issues with China. The Republican has said he’d label China a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency. Greenberg, who now runs C.V. Starr & Co. and invests in China, said such a designation could lead to retaliation from the world’s second-largest economy.

“Do you want China to be an enemy or a friend?” Greenberg, 87, asked. “We have a choice between a trade agreement or a trade war. I choose a trade agreement and I hope that we will.”

Liu asked Greenberg, a Romney supporter, why he thought the former Massachusetts governor would change his position, and how a reversal would be perceived.

“It’s common sense, and I think he has common sense,” Greenberg said. “It’s not backtracking. He’ll have some advisers around him that will put it straight.”

Obama’s Response

Greenberg is a director of the U.S.-China Business Council, a nonprofit organization of companies doing business in the country that favors the reduction of barriers to trade and investment, according to its website. He’s also a chairman emeritus of the Asia Society, which fosters mutual understanding and partnerships among people and leaders in the U.S. and Asia.

“Mr. Greenberg is not the only business leader in this country to raise concerns about the impact that labeling China a currency manipulator could have on our economy,” Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Air Force One, citing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Greenberg said he agrees with Romney that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke should be replaced when his term ends in 2014. The executive said he’s opposed to a third round of quantitative easing which may lead to a “burst of inflation.”

“I don’t see how you continue to print money and not pay for it later on,” Greenberg said.

Romney has said he wouldn’t appoint Bernanke because he wants a Fed chief who shares his economic views and would promote monetary stability and a strong dollar. Republican President George W. Bush appointed Bernanke, 58, to head the Fed for a term starting in 2006, and Obama kept him on for a second term beginning in 2010.

Asked about a possible replacement, Greenberg said “somebody with experience in the real world, not just the academic world, is what we need.” Bernanke previously worked as a professor at Princeton University.