Motor City Solutions
Q What kind of blowback are you getting in Congress that will lead you to go on a national tour to have to go and sell this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s more a matter of just making sure the American people understand how important the USMCA is to maintaining the momentum we have in this economy. 5.5 million jobs. The stock market is soaring. American manufacturing is roaring back.
But to maintain that momentum, Congress needs to ratify the USMCA. And the President and I are absolutely committed not just to take this case to Capitol Hill, but really to take this case to the American people and let people speak to their elected officials and tell them that we got lots of other issues that Washington spends its time on. This is about jobs. This is about growth. This is about making sure that there’s more investment in America, more growth in manufacturing in particular, more growth in the American automotive industry. That means the USMCA has got to become law.
Q Do you think the Democrats will try to stall this for political purposes?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I know the President is going to be meeting with the Speaker of the House next week, and they’ll be talking about a broad range of issues.
But, look, our hope is that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are going to recognize just how important the USMCA is to working Americans, to investment in this country. And we’re absolutely determined to take this case all across the country.
Look, NAFTA is more than a generation old. I talked today about some of the flaws in NAFTA. There’s actually a broad range of technologies that were not even invented at the time that NAFTA was signed into law and now it works in a way that is disadvantage to American workers and to investment in this country.
The President negotiated a trade deal that now levels the playing field between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. And the truth of the matter is, we’re already seeing the Big Three. We’re already seeing American automotive companies reinvesting in this country. But we got to see the USMCA ratified by the Congress. We’re very confident that Mexico and Canada will follow. But it’s absolutely essential that we sign this into law.
Q How would you describe this bill to the average American voter?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The USMCA is a win for American workers and American jobs. I mean, we all know what happened with NAFTA. We all remember the promises that came with NAFTA. And then, whether it be here in Michigan, whether it be in my home state of Indiana, over the last 25 years we’ve seen jobs head south of the border to Mexico. Those days are over.
The new agreement in the USMCA levels the playing field, where Mexico has agreed to update their labor laws. Now there’s rules of origin for where products and component parts are created that now is going to create the kind of environment where American workers are going to be able to compete and businesses are no longer — no longer going to have some incentive in our treaty arrangements with Canada and Mexico to move jobs out of this country.
That was what the President committed to. He committed to reforming and renegotiating NAFTA. The USMCA is a win for American workers. It’s a win for American jobs. And Congress needs to sign it into law and ratify it.
Q Is there a timetable? And if Congress doesn’t ratify, what’s the fallback? Do we go back to NAFTA?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the International Trade Commission just completed their report. And I spoke about it today. It’s a very optimistic report about the way jobs are going to expand, investment is going to expand, for the American people.
That begins the clock running for consideration of the USMCA by the Congress. The President is going to be meeting. We’re going to be talking with leadership of the Congress.
Q And the deadline?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look, the USMCA needs to be passed this year, but the President and I believe the sooner the better. It’s absolutely essential that Congress set politics aside on this and be willing to turn away from what they spend most of their time focused on and actually do something that is going to create jobs and opportunities for people here in Michigan and all across the country.
Q Is the administration open to opening up the deal and renegotiating parts of it to appease Democrats but also some Republican members?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The deal has already been negotiated between the United States and Canada and Mexico. But certainly, the Congress will also enact what will be called “implementing legislation.” And we’re currently speaking with members of Congress in both parties about that legislation. And there’ll be some give-and-take in that.
But, look, we really believe this deal is a tremendous improvement on NAFTA. We believe that it takes away the incentives that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs leaving this country year after year. We’ve leveled the playing field. The USMCA needs to get done. Congress needs to do its job. And we’re going to work very closely with them on that — on that accompanying legislation to make sure that we address issues.
But this is a good deal for American workers, a good deal for American jobs, and Congress needs to ratify it.
Q What happens if it doesn’t pass?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look — (laughter) — I will tell you this: The President kept his promise to the American people. And we drove a hard bargain with Mexico and Canada to level the playing field. The USMCA does that. It is a brand new trade deal after NAFTA.
And now two different estimates are in that suggest it’s going to invest — it’s going to result in billions of dollars of investment into this country; hundreds of thousands of jobs created not just in the automotive sector, but in manufacturing broadly. And we believe that’s a compelling case, and we’re going to take that case to Capitol Hill. We’re going to be taking it all across the country.
And I really do believe, at the end of the day, Congress will see its way clear to recognize the merits of this. But we’re not going to take anything for granted. We’re going to take the case to the American people, and that’s what brought me to Michigan.
Q I was curious — the support for the auto industry (inaudible) USMCA, but there are some concerns still about tariffs. Is there a path towards (inaudible) some of that in the passage of the USMCA?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, you know, the President has used tariffs on steel and aluminum, for instance, to really protect vital industries in this country.
But our priority now is to have Congress approve the USMCA. And I know that the President will take under consideration — once we address the inequities that existed under NAFTA — that we’ll give due consideration to other tariffs that have been imposed. But the priority right now is to get the USMCA approved by the Congress, have Canada and Mexico approve it, and then those issues can be addressed after that.
Q Could I ask you, Mr. Vice President — this is the first time we’ve had the chance to talk to you since the release of the Mueller report.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q And I want to go back — three weeks before the 2016 election, you, onstage, said: Thanks to some diligent efforts by third party groups and thanks to lots of WikiLeaks, we’ve been finding out more and more.
Do you regret using emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers during that campaign? And do you pledge to not do so in this upcoming presidential campaign?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The United States has taken strong action against the founder of WikiLeaks. We’re seeking extradition and we’ll be holding him accountable for his actions compromising American secrets. And I’m very confident that we’ll pursue that very aggressively.
But, look, for more than two years, the Special Counsel did their work. The White House fully cooperated; all of our offices fully cooperated. Provided testimony. Provided millions of pages of documents. And came to the conclusion that there was no collusion, no obstruction.
And what I believe the American people want to see Washington do today is focus back on the issues most important to them. The questions that were raised by the Special Counsel, the questions that were raised in the last election and its aftermath, have been answered.
But what brings me here to Michigan today — and the President is traveling to Georgia today, dealing with the issue of opiate abuse and addiction — is we want to get back focused on, in Washington — on getting this economy rolling again.
The great news is —
Q But a lot of —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The great news is, over the last two years, that’s where we’ve been focused. That’s why we’ve cut more federal red tape than any administration in American history already. We’ve passed historic tax cuts and tax reform. We’ve unleashed American energy. We’ve negotiated new trade deals. The American economy is growing.
And now it’s time for the rest of Washington to do their job and focus on what is going to make a real difference in the lives of Americans, which begins with passing the USMCA. Get it to the President’s desk. Ratify a trade agreement that’s going to result in jobs and in investment here in this country. Then let’s focus on infrastructure. Then let’s focus on all the things that will improve the lives, the wellbeing, the security, and the prosperity of Americans.