Here’s why Hubert Joly wants Donald Trump to lower trade barriers

[UPDATED AT 5:15PM]

He’s a 44-year-old business consultant who works with the Securities and Exchange Commission, landed in D.C. five years ago, was unceremoniously fired from Best Buy by CEO Hubert Joly, and then hired by him as his successor.

If Joly was unlucky to begin with, especially to lose such a big-ticket job after only a couple of years, it now appears that he was just unlucky enough to be recruited by someone who could turn the company around.

Joly was once the CEO of The Carlson Companies, an American hospitality conglomerate that, among other things, owns Radisson hotels, more than 4,000 US car rental franchises, and other chains, and he’s since retired to Brussels, Belgium to play with his children, and savor life.

Here, he made his case for the government to take action on behalf of American companies facing sudden and startling headwinds. (He blamed offshore jobs.)

I’m pleased to be here this morning on a mission from my own campaign from 40 years ago: to establish “open markets and honest competition” as the best economic system for the United States.

I was disappointed — very disappointed — to hear from a range of United States trade officials during my visit to D.C. last month about the harm our fellow countrymen have been suffering from unfair trade agreements and unfair tariff practices.

I heard that on the trade side, it’s more often people who are victims. And this is not about the Swiss paying more for beef or Australians getting less for frozen lobster. This is about something else: the U.S. economy taking hits from unfair trade on a year-by-year basis.

I find this stunning, to say the least. The poor in America suffer more than other nations. America is more successful, but it’s not. Those are our friends and neighbors. Our biggest market is the largest economy in the world. We talk to them all the time, and we have a common enemy. Our enemies are foreign — governments, not citizens. No one is more critical of this practice than me. I was the Swiss Chairman at Carlson, too. The one place you couldn’t afford to pay more was Switzerland, and the reason is because we have an open economy that benefits everyone. I’ve made a career of this. And I never worried about it for one moment. It’s not true.

My father grew up in southern France, in a little family that never did anything bigger than growing up, yet he was a pioneer. In 1933 he had gone to Italy, to watch his son become a bullfighter. We were proud. I took him to America for college. He felt settled, even though he did graduate from NYU. In 1974, he and my mother sent me a letter saying thank you, for my sending him to LA for a summer.

“Dear Hubert, thanks for the wonderful vacation. Always cherish your friends wherever they may be, especially those who sacrifice for your benefit.”

They were in their 80s and very unwell. Their friends suddenly sensed it was the end of the world. And they sent a letter back, reinforcing everything my dad had just told me. Our mother passed away in 2009, and I visited them three times a year for six years. He was a very serious person, still was, until about two years ago. And I want to offer the things he loved about the United States. America is the greatest. We have a wonderful openness.

This message has been repeated more than 500 times. The goal is to spread the message to others. More than six million people have registered in favor of fair trade. It was the first time we surpassed five million. Hundreds of thousands come to the website, register with us. Each week we get thousands of positive posts from the participants. It is a spectacular success.

The single message has never been: “Buy the President’s policies, support his efforts to normalize relations.” This is a simple approach. It is not paranoid, or wishful thinking. My parents taught me to love the United States, and to give love back. The tolerance and diversity of the U.S. are beautiful to watch. What we need are rules and regulations, not war. This is the way we were brought up. The history of the United States gives us the greatest value: Openness, honesty, and caring. And that means the rules should be kept.

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