Q Sir, you had the opportunity to be the governor of this state so you know Indiana farming well.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do.
Q You know one in seven jobs are connected to agriculture. So as you heard from the farmers today, what do you say to them? What do you — how do you convey the — this is a critical issue for the state.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, one in four of our pork production* here in the state of Indiana is exported out of the country. And our promise to the people of Indiana — to agriculture all across this country — is that we’re working every day to expand markets for agricultural products, for what we grow, what we raise.
And the USMCA — a new trading agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the United States to replace NAFTA — is a win for American agriculture. It’s a win for American farmers. And it’s time for Congress to act.
What I heard today here, consistently, is real urgency — that the farmers who always are land rich and cash poor have been feeling the weight of low commodity prices. They’ve been burning through capital, burning through equity. So it’s imperative that Congress act — and act this spring — to ratify the USMCA so that they know and have certainty about access to the Canadian market, to the Mexican market.
And what I assured all these farmers today is: We’re working at this very hour for a new trading agreement with China to open up exports to China of agricultural products, and we’re in negotiations with Japan and the European Union.
President Trump is fighting to expand exports, expand trade. But it’s time for Congress to act to move the USMCA.
Q The Speaker has raised concerns about not taking it up because she says the issue of: “Will Mexico enforce the rules?” Are you concerned at all — well, first of all, do you buy the Speaker’s argument? And are you concerned at all, sir, that Mexico and Canada will enforce the rules as you wish them to have them?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We really believe that the USMCA is a great improvement over NAFTA for American manufacturing and for American agriculture. You can look at the details of these agreements.
Frankly, NAFTA has cost Indiana jobs — particularly manufacturing jobs that we saw head south to the border. Those days are over under the USMCA. And agricultural products, particularly in specific areas like dairy and others, now have protections and access that they didn’t have before.
We’ve negotiated a good deal. The President has done his work. Now it’s time for Congress to do their work. And we’re very confident that our partners in Canada and Mexico will live up to the agreement. They’re prepared to ratify the agreement, but America has got a lead.
Q Governor, I know isn’t related to agriculture, but Indiana just adopted a hate crimes law and I wondered how you thought we did?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I haven’t followed it closely, but we condemn discrimination or acts of violence in all their forms.
Q What are you demanding from China, sir? China is a big player in buying Indiana products and so is the (inaudible). So what is the demand so that not only Indiana, but the other states get a fair deal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look, you look at our international trade deficit: Half of it is with China. And President Trump has imposed, now, $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods coming into the United States. And we’ve made it clear that we’re prepared — unless China acts, we’re prepared to more than double that.
But, now, fortunately, China is at the table. The Vice Premier of China is in the Oval Office this afternoon. Negotiations are underway and we remain very hopeful that China will open up their markets to U.S. agricultural goods in new and unprecedented ways, they’ll open up to U.S. manufactured goods.
But we’re also looking for China to address some of the structural issues: to protect American intellectual property; to end forced technology transfers; to really step up in a modern, and fair and equitable relationship with the United States of America when it comes to trade. That’s what we’re driving for.
But as the President said, we believe the United States is in a strong position. We’re going to continue to stand up for American jobs and American workers as those negotiations with China move forward.
Q Mr. Vice President, how confident are you that a deal with China will get done during this negotiation?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the President most often says, “We’ll see.” We really believe the United States is in a very strong position. The President has imposed $250 billion in tariffs. We really have to end this time of not only massive trade imbalance, but trade practices that really work against American farmers and American manufacturers.
But look, our teams are at the table. Negotiations are underway. President Trump has a very good relationship with President Xi. And we remain hopeful that the discussions that are even taking place today will result in a new trade relationship with China that will be a win for American agriculture and a win for American workers.
Q Sir, on the issue of jobs — this state is looking at 1 million jobs (inaudible) needs workers. How confident are you that we can maintain the job growth? As you know, Governor Holcomb has a number of policies, but where are we going to find all these people, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first and foremost, I couldn’t be more proud of the job that Governor Holcomb and Lieutenant Governor Crouch are doing for the people of Indiana.
I mean, to see the way Indiana is prospering and growing — really setting the pace for job creation all across the Midwest. I mean, since we passed those tax cuts, since Election Day 2016, we’ve seen almost 500,000 new manufacturing jobs created all across the country, including many here in the Hoosier State.
But as Governor Holcomb has observed and as governors we talked to around the country recognize, the challenge going forward is workforce — making sure that men and women could either be retrained or trained to work in this modern and growing economy. And so our administration is working very closely with states to make sure that we’re modernizing our workforce development and training systems to make sure that we meet the needs of a growing economy.
But, you know, it’s a good thing that today there are more job openings in America than there are people looking for jobs. This is a growing economy. Every American should be encouraged by that. And every American who’s on the sidelines today should know that Indiana and America are open for business. And I couldn’t be more proud than to be in the midst of this growing economy.