by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Texas senior Sen. John Cornyn told a crowd of more than 200 attendees that he will continue to work with President Donald Trump and his peers in Congress to preserve trade agreements, to avoid a trade war and to resolve conflicts over immigration.
Cornyn spoke Friday, May 4, at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Legislative Speaker Series at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Former U.S. Ambassador and current Hunt Consolidated executive Jeanne Phillips hosted the conversation with him, leading with a question over the Trump administration’s trade policies.
“It’s hard, in the Trump administration, to know what is theater and what’s reality, and that’s just sort of the way the administration operates,” Cornyn said. “And they negotiate in ways that are not what I would call orthodox when it comes to politics or international relationships.”
Cornyn said Trump’s instincts on the economy, taxes and regulations are very solid. Trade is another question, he said.
“The trade part confuses me because I think the president, his rhetoric — which is, I think, more populist than policy-oriented — I think he blames trade for a lot of things that are not necessarily directly trade related.”
Trump is gaining an appreciation for the potential retaliation that can occur with heavy tariffs, Cornyn said.
“So, I think what we’ve tried to do on NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and on the tariffs, and on China, is to try to work with the president, encouraging him in ways that would first do no harm,” he said. “NAFTA, is, I think, very important to Texas. Five million American jobs… depend on that binational relation with Mexico. Eight million with Canada. This is really important.”
Cornyn, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, mentioned that preserving the agreement is especially important to some of those in attendance, including Toyota Motor North America.
“There is a point at which we can kill the goose that laid the golden egg, and I think that would be a terrible, terrible mistake,” he said.
Cornyn said while he agrees that President Trump’s approach has been correct in addressing China over its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and to defend American intellectual property, Trump sometimes ties U.S. trade policies to such behaviors.
“We hear a lot from her ranchers and farmers who are particularly beleaguered, and, in the end, nobody really wants a trade war,” he said.
When asked about the conflict over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Cornyn said opponents to Trump’s solution chose to make it a campaign issue, rather than resolving it when they had the chance. President Donald Trump proposed a path for citizenship for roughly 1.8 million DACA-eligible young adults, and a border wall with Mexico.
“There is a saying in Washington, D.C., that some people want a solution, while others want an issue they can use for the next election,” Cornyn said “I’m afraid… we’ve become captive of people wanting to preserve the issue for the election, rather than solve the problem, and that’s a real shame.”
Cornyn said, “In America, we don’t hold children responsible for the mistakes their parents made… We had to demonstrate, ‘Yes we want border security, yes, we want the rule of law, but there is a role for compassion and pragmatism, when it comes to DACA, and the president’s proposal to generate a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA-eligible young adults was extraordinarily generous,” he said. “It came with a price. The president said he wanted money for border security and here again some of the rhetoric on border security like, ‘The wall tends to be divisive,’ and people sort of ridicule that, from the standpoint of, ‘Well, that’s not a real solution. You need more than just physical infrastructure,’ and that’s true… but that’s a critical piece of the puzzle.”
In January, Democrats and Republicans presented a compromise agreement involving DACA; that deal was rejected by President Trump.
The DRC supports the continuation of DACA and has been actively engaged in the dialogue by sending multiple letters to elected officials and signing on to a national coalition letter with other chambers and the New American Economy. The DRC will continue to emphasize DACA’s importance to our skilled workforce and regional economy.
Cornyn said that resolving the immigration issue is key in meeting industry demands for qualified workers.
Phillips also asked Cornyn about whether the tax reform faces any revisions.
“We all know how complex and how self-defeating our tax code had become particularly when it comes to our top business rate, which was the highest in the world, at 35 percent,” he said. “Getting it down to 21 percent – which we did – which is the average of the industrialized countries in the world, I think is going to have a lot of benefits.”
Cornyn said he’s starting to seeing major businesses including AT&T, Southwest Airlines and others give bonuses and make commitments to infrastructure investment.
“You’re gonna see a lot of money coming back, that’s parked overseas, because people didn’t want to pay taxes twice on it, coming back to the United States, being invested in businesses and jobs here,” he said. “So, I think we’re going to see a huge benefit… Now, we could screw it up, and if we don’t get the trade thing right, [we] could well do that. But it is it is really encouraging.”
The Men and Women of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. was the gold sponsor of the event; Texas Central Partners was a silver sponsor.