Trump Looking ‘Very Strongly’ at Chinese Stocks on US Exchanges

May 14, 2020 Updated: May 14, 2020

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said May 14 that his administration is looking “very strongly” at issues related to Chinese firms listed on American stock exchanges that don’t follow U.S. accounting standards.

“We’re looking at that very strongly,” Trump told Maria Bartiromo in an interview for Fox Business Network.

Trump, however, noted that there is stiff competition among global stock exchanges.

“Here’s the problem with that,” he said. If the U.S. government asks Chinese companies to “follow the rules of the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ, what do they do, they say, ‘Okay, we’ll move to London or we’ll go to Hong Kong.’”

Chinese companies currently are subject to lower disclosure requirements than their U.S. counterparts, causing U.S. investors to face risks and losses.

There were 172 Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges that were valued at more than $1 trillion as of September last year, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission annual report.

“The Chinese government continues to block the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from inspecting auditors’ work papers in China, despite years of negotiations,” the report stated.

Last month, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton criticized the lack of transparency of Chinese companies listed on the NYSE.

“It’s a source of frustration for us because we don’t have the same oversight with respect to operations in China from a financial reporting point of view that you do in most of the rest of the world,” Clayton said in an interview with Fox Business in April.

His comments came after the scandal of Chinese coffeehouse chain Luckin Coffee, whose share price collapsed over 80 percent in less than a month. It’s currently banned from trading due to fraudulent transactions that involved inflating 2019 sales figures.

Thrift Savings Plan

During the Fox interview, Trump also touched on the federal retirement fund investing in Chinese businesses. In general, U.S. public pension funds have come under growing scrutiny because of their investments in Chinese firms, including those that support the regime’s military and espionage activities, and human rights abuses.

After pressure from the Trump administration, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) on May 13 voted unanimously to halt its decision to invest in problematic Chinese companies. FRTIB administers the federal workers’ retirement fund, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

In recent years, global stock index providers such as MSCI and FTSE have added Chinese stocks to their global and emerging markets indexes, allowing billions of dollars from U.S. retirement funds to flow into Chinese equities.

Trump told Fox that the thrift fund “is run by the Obama appointments,” and if they do invest in Chinese stocks, his administration will “replace them very quickly.”

Trump also renewed his criticism of the Chinese regime for its mishandling of the CCP virus outbreak.

“It was either stupidity, incompetence, or it was deliberate, one or the other,” Trump said when asked if it was a deliberate attack on the United States.

Trump earlier described the pandemic as an attack that’s “worse than Pearl Harbor.”

“We could cut off the whole relationship” with China, Trump said, adding that such a move would save the United States $500 billion, referring to the U.S.–China annual trade deficit.

When asked if he would speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Trump said, “Right now, I don’t want to speak to him.”

A growing number of countries have stepped up calls for more transparency from the Chinese communist regime, and for an investigation into Beijing’s handling of the CCP virus outbreak. As the health crisis continues to exact substantial human and economic costs worldwide, countries are also reevaluating their ties with Beijing.

Cathy He contributed to this report.

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