Home National Politics Video: President Obama vs. Sen. Warren on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Video: President Obama vs. Sen. Warren on the Trans-Pacific Partnership


I’m undecided on this one, it really comes down to exactly what’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For instance, will there be strong protections for labor, human rights and the environment?  If so, then I could see myself supporting this deal. If not, I couldn’t.

  • April 21, 2015 08:35PM ET | Congressional Quarterly, Inc.


    April 21, 2015





    Roll Call, Inc.

    1255 22nd Street N.W.

    Washington, D.C. 20037

    Transcript/Programming: Tel.301-731-1728

    Sales: Tel. 202-419-8500 ext 599



    Copyright 2015 Roll Call, Inc.

    All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of

    Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

    copyright or other notice from copies of the content.



    APRIL 21, 2015








    MATTHEWS: Thank you for inviting me to moderate this discussion. We have Congressman Gerry Connolly from this area in Virginia. We have Jim Corcoran — kind of an Irish crow here — Jim Corcoran, who’s head of the Chamber of Commerce out here. We Dr. Dasgupta, who’s co- founder of a health care startup, and we have Debbie Askin, who is founder of an IT firm out here, right?

    ASKIN: Yes.

    MATTHEWS: So I want to ask you, Mr. President, obviously, the hot question. U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren is out there saying things like this about the trade agreement we’re going to talk about today. It’s going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind. She also says it challenges U.S. sovereignty.

    OBAMA: Yes.

    MATTHEWS: They are throwing the kitchen sink at this trade agreement, which will involve 11 nations and ourselves on the Pacific rim. Why are they saying these things?

    OBAMA: Well, I guess they don’t want it to happen. And I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.

    And let me be very clear about my views on trade generally and why this is so important. You know, I’m not somebody who believes in trade just for trade’s sake. You know, I come from a state, Illinois, that was devastated by the loss of manufacturing in many small towns.

    I think that we had a stretch of a couple of decades where, in part because of globalization, you had manufacturing moving to other places in search of low wages, no environmental standards, no labor standards. So trade deals haven’t always worked for us.

    But what I’ve also always believed is that it’s important for us to be able to export our goods, to make sure our businesses are competitive. That’s good for American workers. That’s good for American businesses. It’s good for America’s small business.

    So when I came into office I said, What kind of trade deal would I like to see? How would we revamp how we’ve done trade to make it work for America and we know that we’d have strong, enforceable labor standards for other countries that we trade with? We’d have strong environmental standards with the countries that we trade with. We’d make sure that we had access to their markets just like they’ve got access to ours so that it was fair and reciprocal.

    And we decided to start trying to craft a new kind of trade deal in the largest market in the world because 95 percent of the customers for U.S. businesses is going to be outside of the United States, and if we want to compete and create jobs here in the United States, we’ve got to be there.

    And the fastest growing, most populous region in the world is in the Asia-Pacific region. So we’ve pulled together 11 countries to come up with a high-standard, enforceable trade provision that has unprecedented labor standards, unprecedented environmental standards, fixes a lot of the problems that you had in things like NAFTA.

    And ultimately, I would not be putting this forward if I was not absolutely certain that this was going to be good for American workers.

    MATTHEWS: Yes.

    OBAMA: Now, understandably, folks in labor and some progressives are suspicious generally because of the experiences they saw in the past. But my point is, don’t fight the last war. Wait and see what we actually have in this deal before you make those judgments because what I know is that if we are going to succeed as an economy where already about 11 million of the high-paying jobs in the United States are directly related to exports overseas — and it’s not just big businesses, it’s small businesses like are represented around this table — then we’ve got to be able to craft the kinds of trade deals that I’m talking about.

    MATTHEWS: Let me ask Congressman Connolly, the record of NAFTA, which was about 50-50 in the U.S. Senate, and the House was a little moreso, but there were more Democrats for NAFTA back then. Was NAFTA flawed in the way that this new trade deal isn’t?

    In other words, was it — did it have reasons like people like Sherrod Brown and Bobby Casey, who are out there now opposing this — are they — as the president said, they opposed it on the basis of how bad the last deal was.

    Was the last deal flawed? Was NAFTA flawed?

    CONNOLLY: Well, I think NAFTA wasn’t perfect. And I do agree with the president. I think the agreement we’re looking at now significantly improves upon that, and in fact, goes back in and makes some improvements to the areas that critics are concerned about legitimately.

    But I wouldn’t call NAFTA a failure. NAFTA, in fact, opened up a lot of trade here in North America. And you know, there have been some problems in terms of labor standards and environmental standards, but I don’t think it’s been pronounced as a failure.

    And I think the narrative that all trade is bad, all trade agreements have failed just isn’t true. You know, we have a trade surplus with 11 of the 14 trade agreements we have in place — not a deficit, a surplus.

    It’s not a secret agreement. It doesn’t favor the wealthy and leave everyone behind.

    MATTHEWS: So Elizabeth Warren is wrong.

    CONNOLLY: I think she’s absolutely wrong.

    MATTHEWS: Why are some people like Chuck Schumer, who’s probably going to be leader of the Senate — which is he switching from a big city, financial center, pro-trader, to being an anti-trader? Is that because of upstate New York? What’s going on? I can’t figure this out.

    OBAMA: I think you’ve got to talk to Chuck. But look —

    MATTHEWS: Was NAFTA a good deal? Was NAFTA a good deal?

    OBAMA: I think that NAFTA did a couple things that were important. It integrated the North American economy. Mexico and Canada are important trading partners for us.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: We sell a lot of stuff to them. They sell a lot of stuff to us. The problem with NAFTA that I identified when I was running for Senate, long before I was in the Oval Office, was the labor agreements and the environmental agreements were in a side letter. They weren’t enforceable the same way that the business provisions were in the document, and you could actually penalize somebody if they violated them. That’s fixed in the trade deal that we’re looking at here.

    But here’s the larger point that I want to make, is that the American people are right to be concerned with growing inequality. American workers are right that they haven’t seen their wages and their incomes go up in a couple of decades, even though the economy has grown significantly. And so I understand the anxieties that people feel.

    And some of that has to do with globalization. A lot more of it actually has to do with automation and just shifts in the economy away from manufacturing towards services.

    The thing is, though, that if — if we are going to capture the future, then we’ve got to open up markets to the kinds of things that we’re really good at, that can’t be duplicated overseas. We’re good at innovation. We’re good at services. We can create things that other countries can’t create.

    We’re not going to be able to compete for low-wage manufacturing jobs anymore. That ship has sailed. What we can do is compete for the high end where we’re adding value, and the small companies that are represented by the doctor and by Debbie, where it’s IT, it’s talent, it’s innovation — that’s the kind of stuff that we can sell all around the world. And by the way, we’re still doing good on manufacturing.

    Look, Chris, think about it. I’ve spent the last six-and-a-half years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Every single thing I’ve done, from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum wage, to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get good job training, to what we’re pushing now in terms of sick paid leave — everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal?

    Now, I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good —

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: — for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.

    First of all, they call it a secret deal. We’ve done 1,700 briefings up on Capitol Hill. It’s — there’s a misnomer about fast track. Essentially, what we’re — the only thing we’re looking for is the same trade authority, negotiating authority that almost every president in the post-World War II era has had to be able to negotiate ahead of time. Congress lays out the parameters for what the deal should be, then we go out and we finish the negotiations. We bring the deal back —

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: — and for a minimum of three months, everybody in Congress gets to read the actual —

    MATTHEWS: Why are they saying this stuff? Rosa Delauro —

    OBAMA: I don’t know!

    MATTHEWS: — is saying stuff, Sherrod Brown —

    OBAMA: You’ve got to talk to them.

    MATTHEWS: They are saying — they are saying this is a totally unfair deal, it’s never been done before.

    OBAMA: I know!

    MATTHEWS: I want to bring in these Republicans — no, you’re not Republicans, all right? I thought you would be.


    OBAMA: But the one thing I just want to say about this, though, Chris, is that I am happy to debate this, and I’m sure Gerry and others are, based on the actual facts.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: This is the most progressive framework for trade we have ever had.


    OBAMA: This requires us to have binding labor agreements. On the environment, we’re actually negotiating with countries that almost have no environmental standards, but suddenly, they have to pay attention to excessive logging. They have to pay attention to excessive fishing. They have to pay attention to how they’re protecting their oceans. They’ve got to pay attention to wildlife trafficking.

    I mean, we’re — we’re embodying in this deal all the stuff that the environmental community and the labor community for years has been talking about as a requirement for them approving trade deals.

    This is better than the Colombian free trade agreement, the Panama free trade agreement and the Korea free trade agreement that we just passed a couple of years ago.

    So some of this has to do with, I think, people’s legitimate fears and concerns. Some of it has to do with politics. You know, Democrats aren’t adverse to, you know, making political arguments that aren’t always entirely accurate. We do it less often than the other side.

    MATTHEWS: Can we talk about these other —


    MATTHEWS: You know, Henry Ford (INAUDIBLE) he used to say, If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse, OK? Henry Ford. So innovation.

    How many people can you hire with better trade agreements? What good will this do you guys out here? I want to know what the — because we’re hearing about the hollowed-out manufacturing base of the older cities where I grew up, in Illinois, where there was this terrible loss of jobs in big cities like Flint, Erie, Pennsylvania.

    This is a booming part of the country. This has got Tyson’s Corner, the most exuberant shopping mall in the world out here, world famous. You’ve got money.

    OK, let’s talk jobs. You got any?

    ASKIN: Absolutely.

    MATTHEWS: You going to create any?

    ASKIN: We’re currently exporting — about 60 percent of our current revenue is through exporting, and we are exporting knowledge workers. I mean, it’s services — and that’s what other governments, other countries want. And by having the trade agreement, it will allow us to work in a level playing field so that we understand and we’re all working with the same rules.

    MATTHEWS: It isn’t this — I’ve been reading about this, that people — higher-paid people, better-educated, certainly — they will be the winners.

    DASGUPTA: Yes. I think absolutely. What our company, Zansors, sells is, we’re creating innovative new products for health care using low-cost sensors and mobile apps, and being able to transmit that data to the people who need it, who are the doctors and the caregivers.

    MATTHEWS: Let me give you to Jim Corcoran. You’re the president of the Chamber of Commerce here. By the way, I love the way you said the other day, I didn’t get elected by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, but here you are!


    MATTHEWS: But here you are, with these people! I mean —


    CORCORAN: And we’re independent. We support people —


    CORCORAN: — who support businesses.

    MATTHEWS: — tell me about this part of the — because there are parts of country like, of course, the Silicon Valley, 128 in Massachusetts. We know about that.

    In this area, along the corridor (INAUDIBLE) people go to Dulles Airport. They see it on both sides of the highway. What is it about this area that works? Why is this place booming?

    CORCORAN: Well, you know, it’s interesting. In Virginia — and I think we can say that Virginia is probably a microcosm of the United States economy. We’re exporting about $35 billion a year in products, and it’s evenly split between services and manufactured goods.

    And I would say to your question, it’s — it’s education, it’s technology, it’s talent. We used to be the number one dairy-producing county in Virginia —

    MATTHEWS: Yes.

    CORCORAN: — 50 years ago. It was by far the largest —


    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we’re Silicon east.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that knowledge-based economy Debbie talked about just is so critical. But it’s an international economy we (INAUDIBLE) and anyone who works in business here would tell you that.

    OBAMA: But the one thing I think is important to point out, Chris, is there is this notion that somehow, high-end knowledge workers — they benefit from trade. The average —

    MATTHEWS: Is that true?

    OBAMA: — Joe six-pack doesn’t. What is true is, is that every worker is going to need some skills. That doesn’t have to do with trade, that has to do with the nature of the economy because even if there’s no trade, you know, machines are going to displace routine work over time. And we’ve got to make sure that all our workers are engaged in lifelong learning so that they’re prepared for the new economy in which they are taking technology, taking tools — you go into a factory these days, and it’s all computer-run.

    Now, the guys who used to be there, they’re hired now not because of brawn but because they can work a machine. They can identify problems. They can help develop new products.

    But — but this notion that somehow, it only benefits a handful — I was down in Panama, and while we were down there, Boeing signed an agreement with a major airline down there, selling a whole bunch of airplanes, and the deal is probably worth several billion dollars. Let’s say $10 billion.

    Now, Boeing has suppliers everywhere in the country, and those suppliers, that supply chain, involves small companies that are making specialized parts. You can go into a little, small town far away from Seattle —

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: — and you’ll find people who are benefiting directly. They may not know it initially, but because of that order and all of the planes that we’ve been selling over the years, in part because of free trade agreements, in part because of things like the Export/Import Bank, that’s benefiting manufacturing workers, not just service workers.

    When you go into the agricultural sector — you know, Gerry just said that Fairfax has changed in terms of dairy, but we are still the preeminent agricultural producer in the world. It is a huge part of our rural economy.

    So trade isn’t just benefiting San Francisco and Manhattan. Trade is benefiting, you know, tiny towns in Iowa and in Nebraska and in Montana because we produce food better than anybody else does, and other countries want it.

    But in order for us to be able to sell our beef in Japan, we’ve got to be able to pry open those markets. And when I hear critics of the possibility of us instituting the most progressive trade deal in our history — their answer, I guess, is the status quo. The status quo is not working for us.

    You think about how many Japanese cars are being driven here in the United States. You go to Tokyo, there’s not an American car in sight. Why would we want to keep that status quo, as opposed to have a new deal in which Japan has to open up its markets so that Chrysler, Ford and GM can start competing in those markets?


    MATTHEWS: Still ahead, more of my meeting with the president. What does he say to the towns and districts hit hardest by trade, places like Flint, Michigan, and north Philly, where I spent my early years? All those factory jobs are gone. What happens now to those people? Will this deal help them? What does he say to the Democrats in those districts?

    And later, my HARDBALL interview with President Obama. What’s the commander-in-chief say is happening right now as U.S. Navy ships are blocking an Iranian convoy bringing weapons to Yemen?

    This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


    MATTHEWS: Still ahead on HARDBALL, my one-on-one interview with President Obama. We’ll hear from the President on this confrontation at sea with the naval forces of Iran. It’s all coming up here. We’ll be right back after this.


    MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and part two of my discussion with President Obama, as he makes his case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in the face of opposition from progressive members of his own party.

    I began by asking the president what happened to those good American factory jobs where people could work and make a living straight out of high school?


    MATTHEWS: If you go to my old neighborhood, where I grew up, in North Philly, where it was — my grandpa was the local Democratic committeeman.

    OBAMA: Yes.

    MATTHEWS: But he worked in a factory two subway stops away. He could work at a good job.

    My uncle Charlie worked for Bud, Boeing, those big — those — you could come out of high school at 17 and earn enough living for the whole family.

    Yes, you know about this.

    DASGUPTA: Yes.

    MATTHEWS: And, Gerry — and that’s gone. And those people say, what happened to that?

    How come we’re not the winners?

    The Democratic Party looks out for the losers, in many cases. You guys are all the winners.

    OBAMA: Wait, wait, wait, I’ll — I want to correct that.

    MATTHEWS: Well, help me out here.

    OBAMA: The Democratic Party looks out for middle-class folks who are playing by the rules, working hard and folks who are trying to get into the middle class.

    And we’re happy when people succeed. I want — I want these two small businesses —

    MATTHEWS: What about the people that need help in those —


    MATTHEWS: — old industrial areas?

    OBAMA: And the way we’re going to help them is to make sure that they’re getting the education they need or their kids are, they’re getting the training that they need. And we’re going to make sure that there are rules of the global trading system that work for U.S. companies and U.S. goods.

    And there’s one last part of this that we haven’t talked about, the specific deal that we’re trying to organize, which is in the Asia- Pacific Region, the big 800-pound gorilla out there is China. Now, China is not a signatory to this deal. But China’s gravitational pull in that region is powerful.

    They don’t play by the same rules. They, you know, are coercing a lot of these smaller countries to enter into trade deals that exclude or disadvantage U.S. companies, exclude or disadvantage U.S. workers, that take our intellectual property. They don’t have high standards in terms of labor or environmental protections.

    And if we don’t get this done, if we’re not the ones engaged out there writing the rules, and China is writing the rules in the fast- growing market, the most populous region of the world, we’re going to be locked out.

    MATTHEWS: I’ve got to end with one point.

    There’s a pattern over the last 30, 40 years, I have noticed. Democratic presidents, from Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton — and he still supports TPP — I heard him over in Tokyo. He’s for it.

    OBAMA: Right.

    MATTHEWS: Why did the leaders of the country — do you see a bigger picture than the average senator?

    I’m giving you a break here, because I think there is an argument here. Does the national interest — is there a bigger argument than, say, Ohio vs. the country or Ohio vs. the future or Pennsylvania?

    Because I look at those senators I do respect, and they disagree with you on this.

    OBAMA: Well, I —

    MATTHEWS: What’s the difference in perspective?

    OBAMA: I — I think there are a couple of things.

    One is that local congressmen, local senators, the — they feel — particularly if they’re Democrats, they feel the pain of folks who have been displaced by trade in the past.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    OBAMA: And that’s pretty, you know, powerful.

    I mean, if you go through a small town that lost its main manufacturer, you know, and you — you talk to somebody who’s 55, 60, 70 years old and they talk about the loss there of community and dignity —

    MATTHEWS: Sure.

    OBAMA: — of work, that’s a hard thing. So — so, I understand sort of what they’re going through.

    But my point is we — we have to understand what the answer is. We’re not going to eliminate globalization. We’re not eliminating technology. We’re not eliminating the fact that we’re going to have to train our workers better and we’re going to have to compete.

    The question is, do we do it under rules where we can succeed, or we do it under rules that are set by China and do we lose?

    And — and one last point that I — I’d add, part of what is part of the package that we’re trying to promote right now is a significant expansion of trade assistance that is provided to folks who do potentially get displaced. It’s about double what it currently is, which means that we can help more workers get retrained, work at community colleges. And that is going to allow them to compete.

    But we cannot simply cut ourselves off thinking somehow that us not competing in 95 percent of the world is going to benefit us. And, you know, I’ve got to say, Chris, that some of the information that has been getting thrown out there plays into legitimate fears that Democratic voters have, and progressives have, but it — it’s simply not true. It’s simply not the facts.

    And I’m willing to go through, step by step, every one of the arguments that they’ve made and knock them down, because they’re not accurate. They may apply to previous trade deals. They sure don’t apply to this one.

    MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton said — I’ve got to be — cause trouble here, Mr. President.


    MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton said yesterday the economy is stalling.

    Is it?

    ASKIN: I disagree. I mean, I know we’re adding jobs. We’re actually providing a — we have a call center here in Virginia. And we are providing call center support for our work that we’re exporting. So we’re bringing that work in — into the U.S., and it’s not going — it’s not being outsourced.



    MATTHEWS: Jim, she said small business is stalling in this country yesterday.

    CORCORAN: I’d say it’s growing at a slower rate, Chris. And —

    OBAMA: Well, it actually —


    OBAMA: And, actually, it has grown at a slower rate this quarter, primarily because of weaknesses in Europe.

    And the dollar has gotten strong because of the fact that we’re growing faster than everybody else, which — which raises one last issue that you will hear a lot, and that’s this whole issue of —


    MATTHEWS: I know, the currency issue, manipulation of currency.

    OBAMA: And — and I’ll just say this. We have pushed really hard to make sure that China is not manipulating its currency and a couple other countries aren’t.

    And we’ve had some success. But what we are working with Congress on are provisions that allow us to monitor this and — and to make sure that folks are not manipulating their currency.

    We can’t do it, though, in a way that is so haphazard that it ends up affecting the ability of our Federal Reserve, for example, to engage in monetary policy to try to put people back to work.

    But — but the — the truth is, is that we are the strongest economy among the advanced economies right now. And the — the main reason — the main way that we’re going to strengthen the economy and keep the momentum that we’ve had over the last six years is to adopt the agenda that I’ve talked about.

    Let’s rebuild our infrastructure all throughout this area. In this area of Fairfax, they need a much improved transportation system. We could be putting people back to work right now. We could be making sure that we are expanding, you know, the kind of research and development around things like precision medicine that the doctor talked about, so that individuals are getting better health care. There’s huge growth in that area.

    We know what to do, but part of the recipe for us succeeding and growing is making sure that we write trade rules that benefit U.S. companies and U.S. workers. And that’s exactly what this trade deal does.

    MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. President.

    OBAMA: Thank you.