April 25 (Bloomberg): U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that she’s optimistic negotiators for 12 nations -- including America -- will agree on a Pacific-region trade deal that can be submitted to Congress this year.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with the United States Commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker. Thank you so much for being with us tonight, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE PENNY PRITZKER: Oh, thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
HUNT: Well, we’re delighted you’re here. President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe were diplomatically polite, but they didn’t conclude any deal on the TPP, one the administration hoped to complete by the end of last year. Do you think you’re going to get a deal this year you can send to Congress?
PRITZKER: I think so. I’m pretty optimistic about what can happen. Remember something; I come from the private sector, as you know.
PRITZKER: And it’s hard enough to negotiate deals with one other party, let alone get a deal done with 12 parties. And -- but I have enormous confidence in Ambassador Froman and in the president, they’re negotiating capabilities. And remember, were down to the end game of this negotiation.
So it’s the hard stuff, right? The easy stuff has been handled. And that what they did say, though, is that they’ve had breakthroughs and that they’ve identified pathways to resolution on a number of issues. Not everything is...
HUNT: -- progress. And I know how hard you and Ambassador Froman have worked on this. Some Democrats and the Ford Motor Company say that you’ve got to include something on currency manipulation. And now you have said, rightfully, that’s the Treasury Department.
HUNT: But it’s going to go -- if it’s part of any deal, you all have to be involved in it. Is that negotiable or is that not possible in this deal?
PRITZKER: I think that, um, you know, where currency is going to go is within the boundaries of what the Treasury Department can live with. But so I think it’s something that everyone can, uh, uh, get comfortable with.
HUNT: So it can be part, but it has to be -- it can be part of a treaty but it has to be --
PRITZKER: -- I think it will get ... handled in a way that Treasury can live with it and the other countries can live with it.
HUNT: As you know, I think you know, afterward, the Japanese finance minister, after the president left, said that Obama, quote, “Doesn’t have the domestic power,” to pull anything together before the November elections.
PRITZKER: Well, I think that let’s not talk about, you know, who’s got what power at what moment. I think what’s important is can we get a deal done? And what’s -- why is it important to get this deal done?
It’s because who’s going to set the terms of trade throughout the rest of the 21st century? If we don’t do a deal like this and if a deal like this doesn’t get done among these countries, the terms of trade are going to get set by someone and they’re going to get set by our competitors.
So this is really important. And what’s important about the deal that’s being negotiated today is it reflects our values, our values about labor, our values about the environment, our values about how prosperity needs to, uh, be mutual.
And so this is what’s at stake here. It’s really important we get this done. And I believe that once a, you know, a deal is close enough to the finish line, I think Congress understands what they have to do.
HUNT: Well, let me ask you about sequencing, though. Do you have to get fast-track promotion authority before you get the trans-Pacific deal? And can you get fast track when three quarters of the House Democrats and Harry Reid is saying no?
PRITZKER: I think you’re going to have to get close enough to a deal that there’s comfort giving fast track authority. You will need TPA before you do TPP. But they may come very close in time.
HUNT: Close together?
HUNT: And do you think that Harry Reid and those Democrats will see the light as you get closer to the reality?
PRITZKER: I think we’ll get a deal done as we get closer to reality.
HUNT: With a majority of Democrats?
PRITZKER: Yes, I can’t tell you what the vote will be, but I think we get it done.
HUNT: OK. Let me switch to the U.S. economy. If you look at the figures, it’s pretty good, growing at a 3 percent rate this year. Some -- a number of months of good job reports. And yet I look at every poll and it -- and people say the economy is not doing well. People actually are more pessimistic than they were a year ago. Why is that?
PRITZKER: Well, you know, I have to tell you, I’ve talked to 1,000 business leaders since I’ve been in office in 10 months. And I talked to business leaders around the country. People are very optimistic about America --
PRITZKER: -- and where we’re going and what we’re doing. We have great rule of law. We have extraordinary investment through our universities. We have low cost and abundant energy. And we have a phenomenal workforce, greatly capable workforce. But we have more...
HUNT: So why the pessimism?
PRITZKER: -- but we have more to do.
PRITZKER: We need to invest in infrastructure. You know, studies say we have $3.7 trillion of infrastructure investment that’s required. We need to get immigration reform done. I haven’t talked to a business leader who says to me, you know, that says I’m in -- they all say they are in favor or immigration reform.
First, they see the moral imperative of dealing with those who don’t have, uh, rights today. But they also see the opportunity for talent, tracking talent...
HUNT: But you and I know that’s not going anywhere this year. I -- you know, a strong case can be made, overwhelming...
PRITZKER: You know, I don’t know that you and I know it’s not going --
HUNT: We don’t know that.
PRITZKER: -- I don’t know that (INAUDIBLE)...
HUNT: Maybe just I know that.
PRITZKER: Well, maybe you know that. I’m not willing to give up --
HUNT: Well, I don’t think that --
PRITZKER: -- on it. But I think --
HUNT: No, you’re absolutely right.
PRITZKER: -- But I think the things, you know, what I hear from the business community is optimism. What I hear is, though, here are the places we need you to focus. Focus on infrastructure investment.
PRITZKER: Focus on helping us with innovation. Help us deal with getting our patents more quickly. Help us deal with patent controls. Help us deal with immigration reform, travel and tourism. Enormously positive things are happening in the travel and tourism. The goal -- I think the estimates are we’ll have over 72 million travelers, foreign travelers to the United States this year.
PRITZKER: You know, for every 33 new travelers to the United States, it’s another job. So, but, you know, really good things are happening in our economy.
HUNT: Before you arrived, you talk about your -- you met with 1,000 business leaders. Before you arrived at Commerce, in the first term, there was a lot of tension, even hostility, between the business community and the Obama White House. Has that changed, do you think? And how?
PRITZKER: You know, I think, first of all, the relationship, I feel, is in a very good place. It’s really positive and constructive. And I talk to business leaders every single day on one subject or another. Uh, and it’s a working -- constructive working relationship.
I think the other thing is, on a more macro basis, when you’re dealing with the American Chamber or the Business Roundtable, the agenda that’s on the mind of big business leaders and small business leaders is pretty aligned with the -- where the agenda -- the economic agenda is in the White House.
And so I think there’s a lot more --
HUNT: On trade and on immigration and on...
PRITZKER: And -- and I see it every single day. So I think that that, uh, that’s working very well.
HUNT: You mentioned innovation a moment ago. And about two or three weeks ago, you launched a global entrepreneurial initiative with a number of -- of prominent --
PRITZKER: Oh, yes.
HUNT: -- American entrepreneurs. And yet, if you talk to some of those businesspeople, not the -- not the ones in your group, they’ll say the problem right now is that taxes are too high and regulation is too heavy-handed in Washington.
PRITZKER: Well, the president supports lowering corporate tax rates. That’s one I don’t -- it is -- I don’t see is going to happen quickly enough. And I -- and the business community is frustrated, but that’s one I don’t think is going to happen very quickly.
I think on the innovation agenda, what’s exciting and what, uh, with the president’s ambassadors for global entrepreneurship, which I talked about, these are 11 household names, everyone from Reid Hoffman to, uh, Sal Khan to Alexa Von Tobel and Tory Burch are helping us.
PRITZKER: Five women, six men, isn’t that exciting, to have that kind of a balance in a group...
HUNT: It would be better if it was six and five, but...
PRITZKER: Well, you know, we’ll -- we’ll -- we’re almost at 50-50.
PRITZKER: Uh, but, uh, these are people who have agreed to go around the world and throughout the United States and help us to promote what it takes to have an entrepreneurial culture.
How do you support someone who has an idea, take it from an idea to a product, product to a business plan, a business plan to an entity that could be funded, get access to capital and actually get up and operating?
And that’s one of the great assets that we have in this country, our innovative culture is really exciting. And the rest of the world wants some of that.
HUNT: Let me, just in closing, go back to trade just for one question...
HUNT: Is it agriculture and autos that are still the major hang-ups of the TPP?
PRITZKER: Well, that’s the issue, that’s been the big issue with Japan. You know, like every country, everybody has got their things that they’re most concerned about. That’s why I say, coming to a deal with 12 parties is not so easy.
But we’ve got great negotiators. I mean Ambassador Froman and the president is right in there, as we’ve all read and I’ve seen firsthand how he works, uh, with his, uh¸ peers to -- on these negotiations.
So -- but you’ve got to work one by each.
HUNT: Right. Penny Pritzker, thank you so much for being with us.
PRITZKER: Thank you so much.
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