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Home / Business / Sheldon Adelson warned Trump of the impact of the US-China trade war

Sheldon Adelson warned Trump of the impact of the US-China trade war



WASHINGTON – President Trump's sudden escalation of the trade war with China last month triggered a billionaire phone call

Sheldon Adelson,

During his conversation with Mr. Trump, Mr. Adelson focused on the wider impact of the conflict on the US economy and the prospects for Mr. Trump's re-election. The US-China trade war and its potential political consequences for Mr. Trump, said one of the respondents, and not the situation of his own company.

Mr. Adelson is Chairman and CEO of

Las Vegas Sands
Corp.

The casino company has been operating on Chinese territory in Macao since 2002 and now receives most of its revenue from there. In 2018, Macau contributed nearly $ 9 billion or 63 percent of Las Vegas Sands revenue.

Chinese state media have warned that American companies could pay a price in an unrestricted conflict, and some companies, including

FedEx
Corp.

Representatives of Mr. Adelson, a major donor to the Republican Party, have also spoken to members of Mr. Trump's re-election campaign, according to that person.

The White House could not be reached for comment.

Before the telephone conversation with Mr. Trump, Mr. Adelson personally met the President at the White House on August 20.


Photo:

Al Drago / Bloomberg News

Mr. Trump said that tariffs on Chinese imports are necessary to pressure China to create a level playing field for US companies, and that tariffs are doing more harm to China than the US.

Apart from Mr. Adelson, many US business leaders believe in the trade war, which poses an increasing risk to the US economy and has urged the President, along with the US Chamber of Commerce, to resolve the conflict.

"Sheldon Adelson and President Trump have met and talked about the general business concerns regarding the escalation of trade tensions between the two nations," said

Myron Brilliant,

Head of International Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce, Mr Adelson has been known for years.

Mr. Adelson is a strong business voice and influences Republican politics. Just during the 2018 midterm election, he and his wife donated $ 123 million – more than anyone else – for candidates and conservative purposes.

The license of his company to operate on Chinese territory of Macau, along with those of the US casino operators

Wynn Resorts
Ltd.

and

MGM Resorts International

is due to expire in 2022, unless the Macau government grants them extensions.

Prior to the phone conversation with Mr. Trump, Mr. Adelson met Mr. Trump personally at the White House on August 20 to partially sign a contract. According to two people familiar with the meeting, the message of the business community and business conflict with China has economic implications for the US.

After this meeting, US-China trade tensions escalated after Beijing announced a retaliation against the US The tariffs on its imports were set for September 1st. Mr. Trump struck out on 23 August in a series of tweets and his government announced on the same day a plan to increase all tariffs for China by 5 percentage points from 1 October.

Mr. Trump said in a tweet on that day that companies operating in China are "hereby ordered to seek to exit the market, including by returning investments to the US. The outbreak triggered a market decline, and that evening Mr. Trump announced an emergency law which grants him far-reaching powers to restrict business activity abroad.

Shipping containers from China and other Asian countries will be unloaded in California on September 14th.


Photo:

mark ralston / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

A few days after the tweets, Mr. Adelson called Mr. Trump with a more urgent message to affirm what Mr. Adelson said at the previous meeting, one of the people familiar with the call.

On Sept. 4, a spokesman for the US Sales Representative

Robert Lighthizer

A statement said that US and Chinese officials had spoken by phone and were planning a high-level meeting in the coming weeks. On September 11, Trump announced that it would postpone the tariff increase to October 15.

It was not possible to determine whether Adelson's call had an impact on Trump's decision to postpone the customs clearance.

] The recent, albeit temporary, de-escalation is a relief for companies using products traded between the two countries and for US companies fearing that Beijing will bring their Chinese activities to a standstill.

Write to Alex Leary at alex.leary@wsj.com, William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com, and Kate O's Keeffe at kathryn.okeeffe@wsj.com.

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