Donald Trump said yesterday that as president, he personally would handle U.S. trade talks and would restore respect from countries doing business with America.
The New York developer, considering a run for president as a Reform Party candidate, attacked the trade policies of a number of U.S. allies:
* France is "a terrible partner."
* Japan is "ripping us big league."
* Germany "wants to take over the world economically. They failed militarily."
* Saudi Arabians "have boats bigger than any boats you've ever seen. They have houses all over the world, including Palm Beach. . . . This is getting a little ridiculous. I mean, the money they make."
On "Fox News Sunday," Trump also took aim at North Korea and China for ignoring U.S. overtures and building nuclear weapons. He branded Cuba's Fidel Castro as "absolutely a killer and should be treated as such."
He placed a large share of the blame on U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky--"Nobody ever heard of her"--and said he would hold that title in a Trump administration.
"My lawyers have checked, and the president has the authority," Trump said in a statement released by his presidential exploratory committee after his television appearance.
"Our trading partners would have to negotiate across the table from Donald Trump, and I guarantee you, the ripoff of the United States would end."
Figures announced two weeks ago showed the nation's trade deficit running at a record annual rate of $252 billion through August. The deficit with Japan, at a record in July, was slightly narrower at $6.4 billion in August but still was running 13 percent higher than in 1998.
On television, Trump said clues to the Clinton administration's trade policy can be found in the president's personal business deals.
"I do a deal a minute, and the one deal he did was Whitewater. That turned out to be, you know, unfortunate," Trump said. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, invested in the failed Arkansas land development that led to a protracted independent counsel investigation and, ultimately, the impeachment inquiry.
Even the Clintons' latest deal, a $1.7 million house in New York's Westchester County, showed the president's lack of business acumen, Trump said. If Trump--who described himself as "by far the biggest developer in Manhattan"--had done the deal, he said, he could have saved the Clintons at least $500,000.
"I know the house. My people know the house," Trump said. "They came up to me, they said, 'Why did he pay so much?' I said, 'I don't know.' So why do we give everything away to Japan?"
If Trump enters the 2000 Reform Party campaign, a decision he promised by the spring, a principal opponent will be Patrick J. Buchanan, who quit the Republican Party.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Buchanan was asked about Trump's idea to name himself trade representative.
"I think The Donald would be much better off at HUD, quite frankly: Housing and Urban Development," Buchanan said.