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Brady on CNBC: Tax Reform, NAFTA, & Tariffs

June 22, 2018

Yesterday, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) joined CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to discuss the economy, tax reform, and trade.

On the roaring economy:

“It’s very early in tax reform, we all acknowledge that, but there are almost no indicators that aren’t remarkably better today than they were six months ago. And as I like point out, in just that short time we’ve come from a nation asking ‘where are the jobs?’ to a nation asking ’where are the workers?’ That’s still a problem but it’s a good problem to have.

“So [on trade], we think maximizing this economic growth, we need to do two things. One, we need more customers – that’s good free trade agreements including NAFTA. And more workers––we think there’s a good path forward there as well. And so, on trade, there’s no question both parties absolutely support the President targeting China’s unfair trade practices.”

On the tariffs and the need for a new NAFTA:

We have longstanding trade disputes with both Canada and Mexico and Europe as well. They need to be resolved.  We think a pro-growth, modern NAFTA should address those issues. And Canada has been reluctant to come to the table [and] has really stuck to some outdated – we think – unfair trading practices in agriculture and in intellectual property, no doubt about it. But, on steel and aluminum, that’s not the case. That’s why I think Canada, Mexico, and Europe, on the steel and aluminum especially, ought to be exempt so we can use them and work with them as allies on China’s practices.

“There are some big economic wins for the U.S. there.  And when you put the strengths of Mexico and Canada together with us we can compete and win.  Especially now that we have a new tax code, we can compete and win anywhere in the world — against Asia, against Europe as well. I think that’s important, needs to be done this year. That’s when Congress wants to see it done and it needs to be done right.

I believe America is in a position of strength and now is the time to address these unfair trade practices. How you do it really does matter because you really have to target those unfair trade practices. Right now, what we see because the exemption process and exclusion process is not working, we see a new uncertainty on trade back home in our local economy. Now, I don’t think it’s reached a serious degree yet. I think most are willing to give the President the space to take these approaches if it results in fair trade practices in the long term. But there’s no question that because a couple of these areas are not working, like the exclusions and exemption process, more pain I think is inflicted on the economy.

“… As you know I’m not a tariff guy. Tariffs are taxes; lower is better and zero is always the best so that’s where I want to go. Yesterday manufacturers who are always the most pessimistic about the future are now the most optimistic in 20 years and we’re seeing the growth and jobs we all worked hard for. And so let’s find a path to keep that going.”

On welfare reform and the need for workers:

“It is… one of those all-of-the-above strategies… We need to get a workforce right, we have all this training and apprenticeship programs but they’re not turning out the workforce we need. We need to turn that volume up.

“And finally, the House Ways and Means Committee has already begun and approved welfare reform. We have millions of Americans on the sidelines [who] we think are very important to economic growth. By moving them to the front lines of employment we can do this as it happened in 1996.”