Trump’s trade war rhetoric is mere ‘propaganda,’ says Inventis CEO

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's tough talk on trade is more propaganda than anything else, the CEO of one of China's largest private equity firms told CNBC's Hadley Gamble on Thursday.
  • The world's two largest economies have been locked in a tit-for-tat trade spat since early April, when Trump first announced tariffs on a range of Chinese and international goods.
  • The tariffs have yet to go into effect, and talks between China and the U.S. are currently underway.
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President Donald Trump's tough talk on trade is more propaganda than anything else, the CEO of one of China's largest private equity firms told CNBC's Hadley Gamble Thursday.

Asked if the president's threat of sweeping tariffs and a trade war with China was overblown, Yong Kwek Ping, chief executive of Inventis Investment Holdings, wasn't particularly fazed.

"I think it's more for political and propaganda, telling the U.S. voters what he's trying to do, and how he's guarding the U.S. interests," he said, speaking at the sidelines of the Gateway Gulf Investor Forum in Manama, Bahrain.

"Trump has mentioned that (Chinese) President Xi is his very good friend. I think Trump will be very constrained, very careful about starting a serious trade war."

Soldiers wait for a container ship to berth at Qingdao Port on March 8, 2018 in Qingdao, China.
VCG | Getty Images

Trump in early April unveiled a list of Chinese imports that his administration aimed to target with tariffs in response to what he called unfair trading practices on the part of Beijing. China's leadership responded with tariff lists of its own, as the world's two largest economies escalated the threats in what became a tit-for-tat push to penalize many of each other's vital industries.

The tariffs have yet to go into effect, and negotiations are currently underway although few signs of an agreement have emerged. The U.S. trade deficit with China in goods and services reached $566 billion in 2017, a 12 percent increase on the previous year and the highest level since 2008.

"I think war is always no good, let's always try to avoid any wars," Yong said.

Founded in 2000, Inventis Investment Holdings has about $10 billion in assets under management. Private Equity International in 2017 ranked Inventis among the top 50 largest private equity firms globally, and the second largest in Asia.