Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski interviewed Hillary Clinton by phone in New York City on Sunday, focusing on economic issues that could affect Buffalo. Here is a partial transcript of that interview:
Q: If elected president, what, if anything, would you do regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement?
A: I’m glad you asked, because I have said that I would renegotiate terms in NAFTA, and I’ll mention some of the ones I would be particularly focused on. This agreement was negotiated 25 years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then. I would strengthen NAFTA’s labor and environmental provisions. I would change NAFTA’s dispute settlement provisions so they don’t give special rights to foreign companies to challenge our laws on labor, environmental and health issues, particularly. I would strengthen NAFTA’s enforcement mechanism to ensure strict compliance with the agreement. I don’t think they are strong enough. And I would review NAFTA regularly and inject that regular review into the agreement to ensure that our workers and communities are actually benefiting.
Q: What would be your approach to trade with China? Bernie Sanders said he would consider tariffs. Would you consider the same thing?
A: Look, I think that it’s clear that China has not competed fairly in the global marketplace, and there has to be a stricter, more effective approach toward dealing with China. China is in the World Trade Organization, and that gives us the opportunity to bring actions against China … to enforce provisions under WTO. And there are two benefits to that. One is to have a mechanism to try to prevent or stop Chinese unfair competition and the other is to get some remedies that will hold the Chinese accountable. So I would use the existing enforcement mechanisms. … And I would not need to be asked. If I were president, I would be much more on the offense and aggressive in enforcing the rules we already have.
If there is a continuing misuse of trading opportunities for Chinese goods and services coming into our markets, then I would look at measures of reciprocity. I think that making it clear that we’re not going to let China, for example, dump steel into the American market requires not only tough enforcement through the WTO, which sometimes can take awhile, but also may require us to be more aggressive on the front end. So imposing duties, preventing the unloading or the importing of goods while a dispute is being carried out, I think would be an appropriate way to respond.
Q: Why did you come to the conclusion that the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a bad deal?
A: Well, for some of the same reasons I said I want to renegotiate NAFTA. First of all, I do not support the dispute settlement provisions that had been in our trade agreements and once again showed up in TPP. … I also am concerned about the enforcement mechanism, and the currency issues that we have had with China were not addressed in the agreement but were put into a side agreement that I think is much more difficult to enforce. … With this agreement, I don’t think these rules of origin are enforceable, and I believe China will set up dummy corporations and factories that look like they’re under Vietnamese ownership, for example, but they will be Chinese-owned and Chinese-managed, and the content will not reflect that ownership. So there are a number of issues that I have raised about TPP that led me to oppose it.
Q: Buffalo soon will be home to the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the country. You’ve promised the installation of another half-billion solar panels by the end of your first term. How do you get there?
A: I’m thrilled that SolarCity is setting up an operation in Buffalo. … I’m going to do everything I can to encourage the construction of manufacturing facilities that are necessary (to meet her solar energy goal). I was relieved when the Congress included the investment tax credit and the production tax credit for wind and solar in the year-end budget agreement, but we have to go further. And I think the more we can get these facilities like the SolarCity plant built in New York, the more political support we can build. Because there does seem to be a connection: When you have a wind turbine assembly plant in Iowa, you’ve got the Iowa Republican members of Congress supporting the extension of the tax credit. So the more we can develop these facilities around the country, the quicker we can reach the goal that I have set.
Q: Obviously, the Sanders campaign has made an issue of your supposed connections to the oil and gas industry. What would you say to a voter who is concerned about that?
A: That is just so silly. Sen. Sanders keeps saying the oil and gas industry is behind my campaign, and every independent analysis by the Washington Post and others have basically said that it’s a false charge.
The fact is, the oil and gas industry is trying to stop me from becoming president because they know I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to combating climate change.
Q: You’ve been calling for a $275 billion investment in infrastructure. Sen. Sanders is calling for $1 trillion. Why $275 billion instead of a larger amount when there’s a lot of need for infrastructure across the country?
A: Well, there is a lot of need, and that’s why I am zeroing in on infrastructure. … So what I have proposed is $275 billion; on top of the money that the Congress finally appropriated so we would be about a half a trillion dollars. This would be, I think, a pragmatic, smart way to raise the money because I’m going to put $250 billion directly into public investment and $25 billion into a national infrastructure bank. … Of course, we have to keep adding to it as we go forward, but I think my plan will give us the best, most comprehensive start.