A Globe-Trotting Billionaire Defends Trump's Trade Policy
The business community hasn't exactly unified behind Donald Trump. Many corporate honchos who normally support Republican candidates are alarmed at his economic plans, which include scrapping trade agreements and punishing companies that shift jobs abroad. Even before Trump finished delivering a major speech on trade policy in Pennsylvania last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was targeting him with a torrent of criticism on social media.
All of this has Trump's friends and allies in the business world rushing to explain their candidate, and themselves. On Monday, Thomas Barrack, a globe-trotting billionaire real-estate investor in Los Angeles who describes Trump as a "close friend," is publishing his own 12-page treatise on the economy. It doesn't mention Trump, but it's a kind of defense of Trump's critique of international trade.
The paper is in no way an official statement from the Trump campaign; it reflects only Barrack's personal views. But Trump, a real-estate developer and reality-TV star with no experience in public service, relies on friends and family for advice more than many politicians do. Barrack is scheduled to speak at the Republican convention in Cleveland this week where Trump will be officially named the party's nominee.
The paper is short on policy specifics, but Barrack said in a television interview on Monday that the the status quo needs to be shaken up and Trump is the one to do it. "What he needs to do is shatter the old system. You cannot affect a bureaucracy unless you crack it," he told Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker.
Barrack's paper rambles through world history, from the Smoot-Hawley Tariff to Bretton Woods. He contends the Western economic institutions -- the system of free trade agreements, the central banks -- were once effective but are now antiquated, contributing to growing inequality and resentment. He faults the U.S. for negotiating trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to further national-security objectives while, in his estimation, ignoring the economic impact of lost jobs at home. He calls for the North American Free Trade Agreement to be renegotiated in unspecified ways. He says the current round of unconventional monetary policy is doing more harm than good, and that the U.S. government's debt is unsustainable.
"Opaque global monetary policies combined with unfocused, poorly negotiated international trade agreements are undermining the entire project of globalization as proponents of these policies face a growing backlash among voters," he writes. As Trump did in his speech in Pennsylvania, Barrack name-checks the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank that's been critical of trade agreements.
Barrack, 69, has known Trump since the 1980s, when he helped negotiate the sale of New York's Plaza Hotel to the developer. (Trump later lost the building after loading it with debt.) Barrack went on to found Colony Capital, a global real-estate private equity manager. He hosted Trump's first fundraiser at his Santa Monica mansion in May and has contributed $415,000 to Trump's joint fundraising committee with the Republican Party.