Trump ‘will treat foreign investment pragmatically’

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — One of China’s richest men has praised U.S. President Donald Trump, saying that despite aggressive talk of protectionism, he believes Trump will adopt a pragmatic approach to foreign investors. Yuan Yafei (袁亞非), chairman of Nanjing-based Sanpower Group (三胞集團), told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the “Two Sessions” meetings of China’s top legislative bodies in Beijing on March 3 that he would be looking for more asset purchases in the health care and consumer sectors on overseas markets this year. Yuan has made a string of high-profile overseas investments, including U.K. department store House of Fraser and U.S. biopharmaceutical firm Dendreon. He said he remained enthusiastic about investing in the U.S., despite Trump’s “American First” policy and threats of tariffs and other protectionist measures.

In January, the Jiangsu-based Sanpower became the first Chinese company to complete a multimillion-dollar acquisition of a U.S. entity, purchasing Dendreon from Canada’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for US$819.9 million. ‘Aggressive talker’ “He seems to be an aggressive talker, but I think he is practical regarding absorbing overseas investment. He will be glad if money is coming into the States,” the South China Morning Post quoted Yuan as saying about Trump. “I really think as the top two biggest economies, China and the United States should co-exist,” Yuan said. Yuan is one of the richest men in China, with a net worth of US$2.3 billion according to a 2017 estimate by Forbes. The low-key businessman first came to public prominence in the West in 2014 when Sanpower acquired the London-based House of Fraser for 155 million pounds. Protectionist Concerns a Hot Topic The future direction of Trump’s protectionist bent has also been a major topic of discussion among business giants in Taiwan. Hon Hai Precision (鴻海), a contract manufacturer of iPhone and other tech devices, is said to be mulling the building of a US$7 billion display factory in the U.S.. Hon Hai said it expects to provide 50,000 jobs at the site. Petrochemical conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑) said it planned to invest an extra US$9.4 billion in Louisiana on top of an ongoing US$5 billion factory expansion project.

FPG Chairman William Wong praised Trump for his active encouragement of investment in the petrochemicals sector. Wong said the U.S.’ strong legal tradition and fact-driven press prompted Formosa to invest. The FPG’s U.S.’ investment plans come as the firm faces hurdles in Taiwan. “It is not as if Formosa Plastics doesn’t want to invest in Taiwan, but with the government refusing to pass environmental impact assessments for extensions for our Sixth Naphtha Refinery, how can the group be expected to invest here?” Wong said.