Ambassador Bob Lighthizer, the former U.S. Trade Representative in the Trump administration, joined Laura Ingraham on Fox News Channel to discuss trade, the TPP, and how the Republican Party must embrace a pro-worker trade agenda.
Watch the full interview below.
LAURA INGRAHAM: Now looking forward to 2024, we see the globalists scrambling to influence the likely GOP field on the issue of trade. Now, of course for the worst that’s going to happen, and we see the battle lines forming on that old dead horse known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Remember that nightmare? And it was so bad, by the way that deal, that America found even Hillary Clinton had to walk away from it during the 2016 campaign. Well Trump, when he was elected, smartly withdrew us from it.
But now, the Freddy Krueger of trade deals is back, with some tweaks they say. Now we can reimagine it, they argue, and somehow the U.S. will not end up with the same raw deal. “A return would provide an immediate boost to U.S. competitiveness and geopolitical influence.”
Of course, that’s just more mumbo-jumbo. But just watch. Some conservatives, certain GOP senators, and some right-leaning think tanks will insist that this is the only way that we can get really tough on China—to renegotiate the TPP. Now if someone like a Ron DeSantis announces he is running for president and he meets with the top newspaper editors out there, I’m telling you, they will almost certainly pressure him to say something hopeful about this TPP issue. But it’s all just another trap for Republicans. Everyone in the business community who supports that deal plans to use it to ship more jobs overseas. And on this topic, Henry Olsen made an excellent point this week. “The old consensus hollowed large stretches of the U.S. economy, impoverishing communities. It had also financed China’s rise, imperiling our national security. Consumers might enjoy cheaper goods, but the country as a whole has paid high prices for these transient benefits.”
And the craziness at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the ongoing aggression from China, they are steadily undermining support for Clinton, Obama, Bush, Cheney style globalization. That’s already happening, and Biden‘s team they know this, which is why they are keeping the tariffs right now from Trump in place and occasionally blasting the WTO. But I’m sure that the Biden people are hoping that the GOP will abandon Trump’s trade policy and go back to the old Bush-Cheney perspective. That would open the door for Scranton Joe to scoop up the working class folks in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and practically guarantee his reelection.
But here’s the bottom line tonight. If DeSantis, someone like him, runs for president—anyone else who hopes to win over the working class voters out there—they are headed into a minefield on trade. They should be wary of getting roped into an alliance with folks like McConnell and the retiring Pat Toomey. And the China Chamber of Commerce? Yeah, on issues that will come back to haunt them, stay away from them as well. You want to campaign in middle America? You better stand for middle America. And joining me now is Bob Lighthizer, former Trump trade representative. Bob, great to see you tonight. What is the biggest problem with this reimagined TPP?
BOB LIGHTHIZER: Well, let me say first of all just to your other point—the broader point—the Republican Party is the party of working people, period right now. Alright. Big business is with the Democrats, tech is with the Democrats. So the question you say to yourself, “What can we do for working class people that will create more jobs and raise wages for these people?”
You got three things that a sensible Republican can do. One cut taxes. That will help jobs, cut taxes on business, not necessarily on individuals. But working class people don’t see that as in their interest. You can cut regulation, which is also sensible and helpful. But working class people don’t see that as in their interest either. And then you can do something on trade, you can fight for our jobs, you can fight for balanced trade, you can fight for fair trade. Working class people see the benefit of that. So to run for president as a Republican, and not embrace this new America first approach on trade, is in my judgment suicide. You will lose Ohio where I’m from and you will lose Pennsylvania and a lot of these other places. If we become the party of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business in this field, it’s a mistake.
Secondly, now on your question of the TPP. The TPP was a disaster from the beginning. It was never ever going to increase exports. It was always about imports. The notion that it somehow encircling China is a crazy notion. The reality is, the way that thing was written, the way it was written, you could increase shipments, parts of products could come from China into the United States, get duty-free treatment that they can’t get now. So it really was the single biggest gift to China. It was a crazy notion. I asked people specifically, tell me what you think we’re going to export as a result of this agreement. Nobody can give me anything of any consequence.
LAURA INGRAHAM: It’s a total scam
BOB LIGHTHIZER: The principal benefit, look when they first sold it, the principal benefit was agricultural sales to Japan. We got those in the Trump administration in our U.S.-Japan deal. We got all the benefit you can get out of it. Now it’s just going to hurt us and it can’t be fixed. It literally is like putting lipstick on a pig, it cannot be fixed.
LAURA INGRAHAM: Now Bob, on this issue of steel tariffs, the WTO—not surprisingly, the World Trade Organization—has ruled against America steel tariffs that were put in place by the Trump administration, saying they were unfairly protectionist, and they put other countries at a disadvantage. Bob, with everything that you’ve done in your entire career on trade—Bob is the most brilliant person on trade frankly in the United States—on the issue of steel, what has happened to our steel industry under the great globalization?
BOB LIGHTHIZER: Well, I mean look the reality is the steel industry in the United States has been decimated and for a period of decades, but it has been around the world too. There is more excess capacity in steel—non-economic excess capacity in steel—in China then there is production in places like the United States, Europe, and Japan. So we need those tariffs and look this WTO case was outrageous, but not surprising. We made a clear decision that every country makes its own decision on national security. This is not something where you have—we have these three wise men and they’re not the Wiseman that found Christmas by the way. These are not wise men who didn’t find Christmas. So, the notion that you have an arbitration three people, three bureaucrats in Brussels decide what’s in America’s national interest is completely ridiculous
LAURA INGRAHAM: Bob, it’s great to see you tonight. It’s been quite a while. Thank you so much.