Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump “has a point” in criticizing China’s trade in aluminum and steel as cheap power has effectively been a subsidy to Chinese producers, said Glencore Plc chief Ivan Glasenberg.

Trump should be pragmatic in dealing with China, given that it imports a lot of U.S. goods, said Glasenberg during a Bloomberg Television panel at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“China was producing coal and selling it to the power stations at a loss,” he said. “Aluminum companies were getting subsidized power.”

China’s trade practices have been under scrutiny since Trump swept into office earlier this year, with the president opening investigations into whether foreign steel and aluminum is damaging U.S. manufacturing enough to pose a national security threat. The results of the investigations will be published in June and the U.S. “will take major action if necessary,” he said on Twitter.

The steel and aluminum investigations could succeed in reinvigorating U.S. manufacturing of those commodities thanks to cheap energy from shale gas, Glasenberg said.

“America today with shale gas has the cheapest energy in the world,” he said. “To produce aluminum, they could potentially be competitive.”

Read: Trump’s ‘Buy American’ policy hurts free trade,  Alexey Mordashov says

Glasenberg also commented on Glencore’s approach to Bunge. Describing agriculture as “a chink in our armor,” he explained that Bunge’s assets in North and South America would fit with Glencore’s business.

“We didn’t have much in the US, we weren’t big enough in South America, so we said that’s where we want to grow,” he said.

He declined to discuss whether the Switzerland-based trading house was considering a hostile approach to Bunge. In May, the U.S.-listed agricultural trader said it isn’t engaged in “business combination discussions” with Glencore or the company’s agriculture unit.

Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.

--With assistance from Mark Burton

To contact the reporters on this story: Jack Farchy in London at jfarchy@bloomberg.net, Erik Schatzker in New York at eschatzker@bloomberg.net, Mark Burton in London at mburton51@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at lthomasson@bloomberg.net, Nicholas Larkin

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