ICAHN: If we’re going to get into a trade war with China, maybe it is better to do it ‘sooner’

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Carl Icahn.
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Screenshot/CNBC

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn – one day after being named a special adviser to President-elect Donald Trump – said it might be better to have a trade war with China “sooner” so the US could “get it over with.”

During a lengthy interview with CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report,” Icahn was repeatedly asked if he was concerned about the market – which has shot up considerably since Trump won the presidency.

Icahn admitted he was “concerned about the market in the short term” because there are “so many factors here that you have to worry about.”

That’s when the hedge fund titan mentioned China.

“If you get into a trade war with China, sooner or later we’ll have to come to grips with that,” he said. “And maybe it’s better to do it sooner, but that’s not my decision at all.”

“I remember the day something like that would really knock the hell out of the market,” he continued. “But maybe if you’re going to do it, you should get it over with, right?”

Trump has consistently railed on Chinese trade practices during the campaign and along his “thank you” tour, during which he said the nation was the root cause of the greatest “jobs theft” in history. The president-elect has been forthcoming in suggesting a trade war could take place.

On Wednesday, Trump tapped Peter Navarro, an economic adviser to his campaign and an outspoken China hawk, to lead a newly formed White House National Trade Council. Navarro is well known for his tough-on-China stance, and has authored books such as “Death by China” and “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World.” He has advocated a more aggressive stance in what he has warned is an economic war with China.

Icahn’s position, which was also announced Wednesday, included advising the president-elect on regulation, in addition to having a role in selecting the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He has long been a critic of government regulations, most notably those closely tied to the Environmental Protection Agency, as he has several large investments in oil and gas companies.

On questions relating to conflicts-of-interest for Icahn, who will be providing advice on an SEC head and a regulatory agenda that, in many cases, effect his investments, the billionaire told CNBC such sentiment was “crazy.”

Watch Icahn’s comments to CNBC below: