ICYMI— Hagerty talks China, Trade at CPAC with former USTR Robert Lighthizer

February 27, 2021

ORLANDO, FL – United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) spoke at CPAC with former U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp. Their panel, entitled Quad Goals: Fighting Communist China from All Four Corners, focused on the importance of standing up to Communist China and defending American workers.

Partial Transcript below:

Hagerty: “[We and our allies need to] push back on China from all corners. China is a hegemon. They’re attacking us militarily. They’re attacking us diplomatically.”

Lighthizer: “One of the great successes of the Trump Administration—and one of the reasons that President Trump ran for president— was trade. He thought we had a bad trade problem. We’ve been taken advantage of [on trade] by the Japanese for years and years and years— and then over the last decades by the Chinese. What [Trump] did [is]… One: he reoriented the purpose of trade policy instead of being for multinational [corporations] and for corporate profits, it became for working people, farmers, and ranchers. That’s what he did… It’s hard for us even to remember what it was like four years ago. [Four years ago,] when they thought about trade, they thought the Chamber of Commerce; they thought multinational corporations; they thought outsourcing was good; they thought getting cheap t-shirts was the objective of our economic policy. President Trump changed all that. Nobody believes that anymore. President Biden—when he was a candidate—[…] didn’t believe in our policy, but he didn’t run against it because we had so persuaded people. And the second thing [Trump] did… is he alerted people to the problem of China. Four years ago, people thought China was a force for good. It was nonsense. President Trump never believed that, many people here never believed that, I certainly never believed that. I wrote and talked about it, going back into the nineties, but he has convinced everyone that this is a very serious threat to the United States being number one in the world and the, all of the basic values that we care about.”

Lighthizer: “There’s nothing conservative about free trade. What conservatives believe is maintaining our values, the things that we think are important. If you go all the way back to Burke, what we believe is small government, for sure, but also maintaining basic values. And this fight, what trade policy should be about in every case, is does it help working people live a better life, better communities, families stay together, and less opioids. This is what trade policy is about. It’s not about the corporate bottom line. It’s not about cheap t-shirts, it’s not about Christmas lights that cost a nickel more. That’s not what it’s about, but that’s what it was about before Trump. And I think we’ve turned the corner. I think we’ve won that, but the people on the other side are not going to stop fighting. You can see it right now in Washington every day… this sort of corporatist, globalist approach is pushing back.”

Hagerty: “I believe you’re right. And if you think about the accomplishments that President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer brought forward, it’s the greatest blue collar movement in America. We saw blue collar jobs accelerate at a pace that we’ve never seen in our lifetimes before. They certainly outdid white collar jobs. This has been great for Hispanics. It’s been great for black Americans. It’s been [great] for all of America. The blue collar comeback was the theme of our Administration.”

Hagerty: “If you think about our allies in the Quad, they suffer the same problems with China too. They get their intellectual property ripped off; they suffer from unfair competition… They’ve got 5G and Huawei to worry about as well. We’re facing the same problems, but it’s American leadership—it was President Trump’s leadership— that it took to stand up and do something about it. And I can say this, Ambassador Lighthizer: the farmers in West Tennessee thanked me every day because they know that I worked my heart out alongside you for two years to get that U.S.-Japan trade deal done. And that’s one of the best trade deals that’s ever been done to open agricultural markets in Japan.”

Lighthizer: “One of the best things about the last election was the fact that we have you now in the United States Senate carry these policies forward. So when you say: ‘Have we won the argument?’ We got Bill Hagerty in the Senate. That’s a big, big, big, big advantage.”

Hagerty: “Look at what [the Biden Administration has] done. They’ve reentered the W.H.O. They’re going back into the Paris Climate Treaty. They’ve canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. China is laughing all the way to the bank, my friends, as this happens. What happens when the Keystone XL pipeline gets canceled and when we stopped leasing lands here? We become less energy independent. We become dependent on nations that don’t have our best interests at heart. And those great paying jobs? They go away. You can’t just turn around and get a job at a solar manufacturing facility or a company that makes wind turbines. Why? Because those are all made in China.”

Hagerty: “What Bob says boils down to something very simple: it’s a history lesson… After World War I and World War II, these economies were devastated in Europe and Japan… It made sense for America to have these advantageous trade deals for them, but we should have time-limited those. What they’ve done is they’ve taken advantage of us at every turn. Under President Trump’s leadership, we went not for free trade, we went for reciprocal trade. He worked his heart out to make certain that we got even trade terms. The American companies can compete and the American worker can compete any day of the week, if we have reciprocal trade terms with our partners. That’s what Bob Lighthizer and President Trump fought for. That’s what they delivered. And that’s why our economy took off like no other economy in the world when he came into office in 2017.”

Hagerty: [Rough Transcript] “In 2015, 2016 before President Trump, there was a theme of hopelessness that good manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. Obama said you can’t just wave a magic wand and bring these jobs back. Well, under President Trump and Amb. Lighthizer leadership on trade: Abracadabra!”

Hagerty: “[Our allies] realize that a strong America and a strong alliance with America is going to be absolutely critical to stand up to China. And let me remind you, China is our adversary at every level. They built their military now to a point that I don’t think anybody could have imagined 20 years ago. Their military budget is increased eight fold. You know, we have more military stationed in Japan than any place else in the world. It’s because of that tough neighborhood that we’re in. We have got to be there standing up to China every day from the military standpoint, because they’re encroaching the South China sea, the East China Sea. They’re threatening freedom. They’re threatening the busiest sea lanes in the world… Their economic predatory practices are awful. They’ve used subsidies to cheat against us. You can’t go to China and open the access to their market, the same way they can with ours. They’ve got their people in Confucius Institute here in America, they’re doing everything they can to take our intellectual property. And they have. We’ve got to stand up to this. And I think that bringing our allies in like India, like Australia, like Japan, is the best possible way to contain China and push back in a way that they understand. And China only understands strength. That’s why, as Bob Lighthizer said, we’ve got to retain our strength as America, both militarily and economically.”

Hagerty: “President Trump is the one that will bring unity to our party. He is the one that’s going to bring us together because his policies worked… His first term and four years I think are going to come down in history as the most consequential presidency that we’ve ever seen in our lifetime.”

Lighthizer: “No one took on China [like former President Trump]… In the final analysis, you’re going to be judged by how you change the relationship with China. That’s what history is going to say… that’s the fundamental question like it was really with Reagan and the Soviet Union. That is the thing that [Trump] did.”