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Trump Bashes Japanese, West Germans, Says “We’re Suckers″

November 14, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ The audience was the Wings Club, but those looking for news on Donald Trump’s recent forays in the airline business got a dose of Japan-bashing instead when the developer spoke to an astonished crowd of industry executives.

″Japan is truly taking advantage of the United States ... They are ripping us like no one has ever ripped us before,″ Trump told a gathering of about 600 airline people Monday at a New York hotel. ″We’re the biggest suckers in the world; we’re the biggest dopes in the world.″

Many in the audience were taken aback by Trump’s brash remarks, which lashed out at the Japanese, West Germans and South Koreans for flooding this country with exports.

Trump suggested that a import tax be put on items such as Mercedes Benz automobiles to exact ″a pound of flesh″ from the exporters.

The Japanese are ″not allies″ of the United States, while West Germany ″is ripping us off″ and South Korea is ″a major ripoff country,″ Trump said. ″If we get any kinder or gentler, we won’t have any America left.″

The remarks by Trump, best known for his New York-based real estate empire, come in the wake of a Japanese firm’s purchase of a controlling interest in the company that controls Rockefeller Center, a New York landmark.

Trump also owns the former Eastern Airlines shuttle and made a brief run at the parent of American Airlines last month, but he surprised the industry crowd by saying almost nothing about the airline business.

Howard Rubenstein, a well known New York imagemaker whose clients include Trump, said the real estate tycoon has spoken publicly before about Japan but that some of the themes sounded in Monday’s speech appeared to be new. Trump, who didn’t consult Rubenstein about the speech, spoke without a prepared text or notes.

Trump bought the Northeast shuttle service from Eastern for $365 million last June and made a $7.5 billion buyout proposal in October for AMR Corp., parent of industry leader American. He later dropped the AMR offer, after it had been rebuffed by management and the company’s shares retreated sharply from an earlier runup.

In one of his few serious comments about the airline industry, Trump asserted after his speech that the AMR shareholders have been ″absolutely crucified over the years.″

″It’s a well run airline but from the stockholders’ standpoint, they have been treated horribly,″ he said. He declined comment, however, on whether he planned a new move regarding AMR.

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