Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris on Tuesday praised President Trump for standing up to China on trade and backed the U.S. over security concerns about Chinese tech giant Huawei.
Both Washington and Beijing have been embroiled in a six-month trade standoff that caused financial instability across the world and put a strain on U.S.-China relationship.
The conflict primarily stems from the Trump administration’s demand that China stops taking predatory actions in trade, including intellectual theft and forced handover of technology by U.S. companies. China has also been accused of unfairly subsidizing its own tech companies.
But the richest man in Egypt believes Trump is right to pursue a tough course of actions against China, saying the Asian superpower has been ignored for way too long.
“President Trump is right about that: This has been a long time where we closed eyes on China raping us. So, by the time you come and tell them, 'You need to change,' I mean, they just used to be so comfortable and do whatever they want," Sawiris told CNBC.
“But I think the leadership is smart, so they will change what they can change. If you tell them, 'You need to change your whole system,' they won't be doing that,” he continued.
“So we need to see what we can get without disrupting their system," Sawiris added, pointing out that he sees the potential for positive change in the U.S.-China trade talks.
“President Trump is right about that: This has been a long time where we closed eyes on China raping us. So, by the time you come and tell them, 'You need to change,' I mean, they just used to be so comfortable and do whatever they want."
The White House said last month that while the two sides made progress in trade talks, “much work remains to be done,” signaling that the deal with China is far from done. Trump said he will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to resolve the issue.
The Trump administration reiterated that it’s keeping the Mar. 1 deadline to come up with a deal, otherwise it would slap on punitive import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods.
Sawiris, who made his fortune in telecommunications, also told CNBC that officials have a right to worry about allowing Huawei operate in their countries, adding that the U.S. has a genuine concern about the Chinese tech giant’s technology.
The U.S. banned Huawei from selling products in the country. The Trump administration recently accused the company of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
“I think there is genuine concern, and I think it's justified,” Sawiris said. “It's actually taking the West very long to — I mean, you know, telecom was my domain — to get worried. I think they should be worried."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.