Carlos Gutierrez on Taxes, Trade and Elections

By October 27, 2006Economy, Trade

This afternoon we’ll post a link to the latest “America’s Business,” the NAM’s weekly radio program, which this week features an interview with Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez.

Gutierrez was one of the many Administration officials to participate Tuesday in the White House’s Radio Day, which brought about 40, mostly conservative radio talk-show hosts to Washington to create a gauntlet of political gab. As noted previously, WDAY’s Scott Hennen kindly allowed us to participate as a producer/gopher for the Fargo station. (It was great, nostalgic fun to listen to the broadcast over the headsets. Today, one is reminded, is “All You Can Eat Walleye Friday” at Seasons at Rose Creek.)

In an interview, Hennen asked Gutierrez what’s at stake in the November congressional elections, a topic the Secretary also touches in his “America’s Business” interview. The answer? Taxes and trade.

Hennen: Lastly, I want to ask you a little bit about the economic stakes of this election, now two weeks away. What is the danger of a change of control in Congress as it pertains to our economy?

Gutierrez : Well, there’s a great deal of danger. First of all, there are tax cuts at stake. The President cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, approved by Congress. We just got those tax cuts extended, but 41 Senators voted against extending the tax cuts; 185 members of the House voted against extending the tax cuts. That means they essentially voted for a tax increase. So what’s at stake here is taxes, and we do not want, and we do not believe the America people want a tax increase. But it’s not me saying it. You’ve heard members of the other party saying if they get a majority, they will cancel out some of the President’s tax cuts, which essentially means they will increase taxes.

The other thing that’s at stake is protectionism. We want to continue exporting, opening up new markets. We have free trade agreements with economies that total 7 percent of the world economy, but we do 40 percent of our exports with those countries. Free trade agreements work. And we know that protectionism doesn’t protect jobs. Protectionism actually creates unemployment. It just sounds good, and it gets the good sound-bite, and it gets the applause, but protectionism is very dangerous. What’s at stake here is our ability to continue to lead the world toward free enterprise and free trade. We can’t backtrack now. Now is not the time. There’s an awful lot at stake.

Later in the day, Hennen interviewed U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, asking her a similar question. Her response is in the extended entry below.

And with that, we sound the closing bell on our White House Radio Day coverage. It was a good event, smart PR for the White House, and pretty cool for even middle-aged veterans of politics and journalism.

Hennen, asking about the fate of the Doha Round and other trade issues:

We spoke earlier to Secretary Gutierrez, and he’s concerned. One of the stakes he mentioned in the election is in the increase of protectionism. Do you see that as being a possible outcome of the change of control in Congress, should that happen?

Schwab: I think we always worry about the increase in protectionism in the United States because even though there are individuals and individual communities and companies who might be hurt by increasing imports, the vast majority of American workers, ranchers and producers benefit from open trade, free and fair trade. So anytime you see an erosion of support for free trade, there is a problem.

That said, I don’t think this election is going to make that much of a difference. I think we always are obligated as trade negotiators to come back with a deal that is clearly going to benefit American interests, and we will do that. I am hopeful that Congress will see the agreement for what it is, if we can get that agreement, and vote for it.

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