‘Unfortunate’ if market got mixed Chinese investment messages

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday it was “unfortunate” if Wall Street got mixed messages ahead of the newly unveiled Chinese investment restrictions.

But he said all of President Donald Trump‘s advisors were unanimous on the decision, which was announced Wednesday morning.

The White House said it won’t be looking to block companies with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying certain U.S. tech-related companies, as reports had suggested earlier in the week. Instead, the government will rely on the newly strengthened Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, to deal with concerns.

Mnuchin and top White House trade advisor Peter Navarro had sent mixed signals Monday about the Chinese investment restrictions, which were ordered by the president on May 29.

“If there are mixed messages, that’s something that is unfortunate,” Mnuchin told “Squawk Box,” moments after Wednesday’s announcement. “What happened over the weekend was there were leaks saying that the president had made a decision. It was completely not true.”

“When the president and I discussed this, he suggested I tweet on behalf of him to clarify that a decision had not been made,” the Treasury secretary added. “Those leaks were not helpful to the markets or not helpful to the process.”

Mnuchin tweeted Monday about the leaks being “false.”

During Wednesday’s interview on CNBC, Mnuchin addressed concerns about disagreements in the White House.

“There’s been a lot talk about dissension. Let me be clear, this economic team has worked together for a long period of time,” many of whom were campaign advisors, he said.

“The president wants to hear different views. That’s an important thing. But we will come together with recommendations to the president and I think this is a perfect example,” he added.

In trading Wednesday, U.S. stock futures reversed sharp early declines and turned positive on the Chinese investment announcement, which was less restrictive than expected. Stocks later opened higher, with the Dow up more than 100 points.

Mnuchin also said the U.S. can prevent a company from forming a joint venture overseas if the firm is dealing in critical technologies. “Again that’s not just China. That’s anywhere.”

Chinese acquisitions and investments in the U.S. fell 92 percent to just $1.8 billion in the first five months of this year, consulting and research firm Rhodium Group said last week.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox and Reuters contributed to this report.

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