A senior member of Donald Trump’s team insisted that the president-elect was committed to globalisation, open trade and Nato despite recent comments that unsettled America’s allies.
Anthony Scaramucci, Mr Trump’s newly appointed public liaison official, told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday that the European and American elite had misunderstood Mr Trump and would change their views when he took office.
In particular, he argued that it was wrong to assume that Mr Trump was opposed to free trade. He was simply seeking to ensure that trade deals were “symmetrical”, rather than organised as a means for the US to help other countries.
“Every single trade deal that the US has [created] since 1945 were these asymmetrical deals . Because we were trying to help countries improve their living standards,” he said. “We call those agreements free trade but they were free asymmetrically. So all we’re asking for now is to create more symmetry in these trade agreements.”
Mr Scaramucci, former owner of SkyBridge hedge fund, added: “If the Chinese believe in globalisation they have to reach to us and create this symmetry because the path to more prosperity is via the American middle class and workers. Trump could be one of the last great hopes for globalism.”
He also denied that Mr Trump was seeking to dismantle Nato, despite comments in an interview with a British newspaper at the weekend in which he said the alliance was “was obsolete”. Mr Scaramucci argued that the president-elect was trying to “renovate” – or update – a treaty that has been forged after the second world war in vastly different conditions from the present.
“Nato was designed to fortify the western European democracies against the spectre of a communist threat. Today the world is dramatically different from the world we lived in before – Trump says we need to spend less time focused on communism and more on radical islamic terrorism. We have renovated our homes and our wardrobes since the 1940s..we have to change the treaty.”
The absence of anybody else – other than Mr Scaramucci – from the Trump inner team at Davos provoked concern from some CEOs, amid fears that they may be downplaying their protectionist instincts in a bid to win corporate support.
“ Scaramucci is trying to sell him hard but we just don’t know what we can believe,” an American CEO observed.
Separately Mr Scaramucci argued that European leaders needed to heed the lessons from Mr Trump’s surprise victory, since it signalled growing popular distrust and anger with the elite. And he insisted that elite observers should not take Mr Trump’s communications via twitter too literally – or pay too much attention to his colourful speech and metaphors – since the president-elect was simply choosing to communicate with ordinary people in the most effective medium.
Mr Scaramucci’s comments were relatively well received by many of the Davos delegates, not least because other Republican figures have also been trying to present a reassuring message to Europe and Asia in recent days. However, others expressed concern over whether they could actually believe the upbeat message, given the unpredictable nature of Mr Trump’s campaign in recent months.
Some pro-Trump business leaders and mainstream Republicans have been using private breakfast and dinner meetings to make the case to their European and Asian colleagues for giving the new administration the benefit of the doubt.
“We need to be optimistic,” one senior American executive, with close ties with the Trump team told a group of Asian and European officials and executives. Or as another Wall Street executive argued: “WE have to work with this administration to get the best outcome – it’s in our interests that Trump succeeds, not fails.”
The team around Mr Scaramucci has been seeking to make this case by citing several key points. One is the fact that Trump has appointed a number of senior business executives into cabinet roles – and some of these, such as Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon, are already well known to the attendees at Davos.
Secondly, the Trump team has stressed to the Davos delegates that the incoming administration has business-friendly policies, that aim to unleash animal spirits and growth.
It also pointed out the fact that the House, Senate and White House are all under Republican control has raised the chance for meaningful action after a long period of gridlock. They stressed that voters had called for radical change – and warned that if that call was not heeded, there could be even more radical social and political protest in the coming years.
People such as Mr Scaramucci have also tried to persuade their counterparts that they will push the administration to take responsible approaches to managing the dollar and global relations.
Sample the FT’s top stories for a week
You select the topic, we deliver the news.