Former Commerce Secretary Gutierrez Weighs In On Free Trade, Cuba
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're learning a bit more about President-elect Trump's approach to trade with Latin America. Of course, he campaigned on a pledge to improve or cancel trade deals like NAFTA. Now, he's promising to block the U.S. opening to Cuba, unless it becomes more democratic. In the United States, he pushed Carrier to keep Indiana jobs that it was moving to Mexico, and the company now says it will preserve some of those jobs in exchange for benefits from the state. Let's talk this over with Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under President George W. Bush. Good morning, sir.
CARLOS GUTIERREZ: Good morning. How are you, sir?
INSKEEP: OK, glad you're with us. How different is Trump from the last Bush administration on trade with Latin America?
GUTIERREZ: Well, a lot of the trade agreements that exist today, with the exception of NAFTA, were done during President Bush - the Central America Free Trade Agreement - Chile, Peru, Colombia. So a big priority for the Bush administration was to get trade agreements in the hemisphere where we have geographic proximity, which makes a lot of sense.
INSKEEP: And these are very much being criticized by the new administration. We had on the program yesterday Trump's economic adviser, Stephen Moore, and I want to listen to a bit of him. He's a guy who says he's a free trader, but he's changing his mind as he spends more time with Trump.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
STEPHEN MOORE: Protectionism is a bad idea, and obviously trade is a good thing. But I think we also have to recognize that even though, as a country, we benefit from free trade, that there are people who have been victimized by trade. And those are a lot of the people in these industrial Midwestern states.
INSKEEP: Secretary Gutierrez, is this a zero-sum game? If Mexico wins, for example, the Midwest loses, and that's just how it is?
GUTIERREZ: No, trade has never been a zero-sum game. The trade expands the pie. You know, I can't disagree with anything that Steve Moore said. We have to trade. We can't be protectionists. So he's walking a very fine line. And we have programs for communities, industries that have been impacted by trade. And perhaps it's a matter of revisiting those programs. There's one called trade assistance - Trade Adjustment Assistance...
GUTIERREZ: ...Designed to help people who have been impacted by trade. So everything that he said we can do without turning into a protectionist country.
INSKEEP: Do you see a danger in the course that President-elect Trump is on?
GUTIERREZ: Well, the danger, of course, is in the short term and the tactics. If we get into a trade skirmish, trade battles with other countries, that could hurt our economy. It could hurt the world economy. So in this transition to a new approach toward trade, there could be some - some short-term impacts on our economy.
INSKEEP: Secretary Gutierrez, very briefly, Trump has announced this partial success, from his point of view, with Carrier keeping some of the jobs in Indiana. Is it possible for a president to go company by company by company through this and push one company after another until you get an actual meaningful number of jobs?
GUTIERREZ: Yeah, that'll be very difficult. I think that the way to do it is the tax cut that he's talked about. If he can do it through tax incentives, where companies are building plants in the U.S. because they get a good tax deal, then he won't have to do it company by company, which, I think, is very unrealistic.
INSKEEP: Secretary Gutierrez...
GUTIERREZ: In the meantime...
INSKEEP: Got to stop you there.
INSKEEP: Secretary Gutierrez, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you. Appreciate it.
INSKEEP: Carlos Gutierrez served as commerce secretary under President George W. Bush and is now the chair of Albright Stonebridge Group. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.