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Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields

Commerce William Daley Discusses the China Trade Bill

Aired May 13, 2000 - 5:30 p.m. ET


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: I'm Robert Novak. Al Hunt and I will question the Clinton administration official charged with passing the China trade bill.

AL HUNT, CO-HOST: He is Secretary of Commerce William Daley,


HUNT (voice-over): The proposed normalization of China trade is expected to be voted on by the House the week of May 22. With the outcome still in doubt, President Clinton held a White House rally to boost support.

It had two former presidents and an ex-secretary of state at his side.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our own interests are best served by a steadily growing China.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A negative vote on this issue in the Congress will be a serious setback -- an impediment for the further democratization, freedom and human rights in China.

DR. HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A rejection of this agreement would be a vote for an adversarial relationship with the most populous nation of China.

HUNT: The Republican congressional leadership also supports the proposal, but nationalistic Republicans and labor-backed Democrats are allied in opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hardliners are the corporate bosses that are in league with the political leadership in China so that they can both make money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must recognize that China is our number one -- are the number one potential enemy of the United States of America.

HUNT: Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley is spending most of his time seeking enough votes for passage to duplicate his 1993 success in winning approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A lawyer and banker, he is the son and brother of Chicago mayors and long has been a major figure in Democratic politics.


HUNT: Mr. Secretary, as you know, in less than two weeks, the House is going to vote on permanent normalization of trade relations with China.

Nobody counts better than you. As of today, how many votes do you have?

WILLIAM DALEY, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Well, as of today, neither side has 218 votes in the House to pass this.

HUNT: How close are you?

DALEY: Well, I've avoided any numbers, to be honest with you, Al. I don't think it does any good. We feel that there is still a substantial number of members undecided.

We think this weekend -- today, Saturday and tomorrow, Sunday, that those are important days for members to make up their minds, so...

HUNT: Republicans say that you have to deliver 75 or 80 Democratic votes, minimum. Can you do that?

DALEY: It's tough. It's tough. We need to get 218. The combination of Republicans, as Congressman DeLay yesterday said that they hope to get between 140 and 150.

Obviously, if they're able to get 150, we need to fill the balance with just 68. If they're short of 150, we'll have to move above that if we can. But together, we've got to get 218. So we're working closely with the leadership to try to come to that number.

HUNT: A key side issue here may be the proposal by Congressman Sandy Levin to set up a special commission to monitor China's human rights and labor issues after this passes.

You have suggested that you need something like this to secure enough votes for passage. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, however, has said it raises all kinds of problems and may cost some votes on the Republican side.

Will this Levin approach -- a, will it materialize and will it help grease passage or be a stumbling block?

DALEY: Well, right now, it's now the Levin-Bereuter or Bereuter- Levin proposal. Congressman Bereuter, a Republican, is someone well- respected. But Democrats and Republicans have talked about the issues of human rights, religious freedom, political freedom, labor market issues that Sandy Levin talks about and Congressman Bereuter does in their proposal.

I think it's been received well, both by the majority and minority. There's no question substantively it has to be accepted and second of all it has to broaden the base of members and add, not take away.

Right now, we are optimistic that it will broaden the base of support, not limit it.

HUNT: Well, Majority Leader Armey says giving into the labor relations, as opposed to human rights, would cost Republican votes in the House.

Do you think that Armey is wrong on that?

DALEY: I hope he's wrong on it, to be frank with you. We're trying to work with Speaker Hastert and Mr. Armey and Mr. DeLay and Congressman Drier who's leading the focus for them.

We all understand that there's a tough vote. As Congressman DeLay said, they will have a tough time getting to 150, which was the number that they came up with last year for the annual normal trade relations vote.

So we are all pulling together. We've got to add numbers. There are many Democrats who -- without this commission, we're probably back to the sort of fast-track numbers, which is the high 30s, low 40s.

HUNT: And then...

DALEY: And then it's very -- it's almost impossible, because I don't believe the majority could deliver 180 or 190 votes. It's impossible.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, there's kind of a buzz around town that the opposition by organized labor, the big investor unions, is really not on the level; that they're not really trying hard to defeat the bill.

What's your impression?

DALEY: I think it's the exact opposite. I think the buzz around town is wrong, as it usually is in this town. The fact of the matter is, organized labor is serious about this vote. They have been speaking -- not so much in Washington -- where they're most effective, understandably, is back in the districts. And that's where they've had an enormous impact on members.

HUNT: What do you tell them then -- a Democratic member who might have a tough race, who's unsure of himself; he doesn't want labor against him. What do you tell him? Do you say just, the hell with labor?

DALEY: No. I don't say the hell with labor because labor is an important part of the Democratic base and an important part of these congressmen's constituencies.

At the same time, what we have to do, as the president and vice president have done for seven years, is keep this overall economy strong so that unionized workers and non-organized members of the work force can do well. And they are doing extremely well. It's a vote that's tough politically, but substantively, as the president has said, this is probably the most important vote that the congressman -- that Congress will pass this year. It is one of enormous potential impact economically and it is also one of enormous political and global national security issues -- that's going to be passed by the Congress.

HUNT: Secretary Daley, you've been a major figure in Illinois Democratic politics in your own right. You have 10 House Democrats from Illinois. How many of the votes of your fellow Illinois Democrats will you get on this?

DALEY: Probably none.

HUNT: None?

DALEY: Probably none.

HUNT: Boy, that says something about the state of the party. You also had 110 votes last year, and now you're not sure if you can get 75 or 80 in your own party.

DALEY: It's a major issue obviously for labor and for the Democrats.

HUNT: One of the things the pundits say -- this is all part of the argument that engagement eventually pays dividends. And critics say that we've engaged for years now, the trade deficit has gone -- with China -- has gone from $6 million up to -- $6 billion up to $60 billion; that human rights and political rights are worse than ever in China. Archbishop Yang was detained -- was arrested back in February because he refused to denounce the pope; that China cheats on its trade deals always.

Why is it going to any different this time?

DALEY: Well, first of all, the reason you have the trade deficit is two-fold with China. One, because our economy has been so strong. And, second of all, it has been a market that's been basically closed through either high tariffs or non-tariff barriers that the Chinese have had to keep not only U.S. products out, but products from the rest of the world. This...

HUNT: How about Archbishop Yang being thrown in prison...

DALEY: Well, only this (inaudible): This agreement will change that. Those who follow China, as was reported yesterday by a number of human rights activists, believe that this is the way to go; that if you're going to say to China, a country of a billion and a half people, "Call us when you're at our standards," we'll wait for a long time for a call.

The engagement -- no question about it -- we have not seen the political and religious freedom, political or human rights movement that we would like to see. That's why we criticize them. That's why the secretary of state went to Geneva. We're the only -- one of the few countries to condemn China in their human rights in Geneva before the UN body. And we would like to see other countries join in.

But those who are there -- Martin Lee was here last week. Someone who said, I can't go to China. I'm prohibited from going to China. But if you want to see a different China, you've got to continue to take the steps to encourage the reformers and not embolden the hardliners.

HUNT: But why is it in this country that CEOs and academicians are all for this, but it doesn't seem to resonate with the public?

We have a great booming economy, and why is it that in that great booming economy, that free trade seems to be an elitist proposition?

All 10 Democrats in Illinois are going to vote against it?

DALEY: I think, as has been noted for a while now, trade is a difficult issue. The whole issue of globalization -- people fear change.

The truth is there is dislocation. Most of it is by virtue of the fact of the new technologies that have changed the work force, changed the way we live. And that has had more impact.

Trade though does have an impact. But the desire to see the rest of the world be in bondage? Is it to see them poor? Is it to see them not have opportunity for improvement in those countries that 30, 40 years ago weren't competitors because they were basically poor and had no opportunities for those people?

I don't think that's what America stands for. I don't think that that's what we look for around the world.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, you've been on the jet-lag express between Washington and Beijing many times, back and forth.

What is your impression of why in the world the Chinese, with so much at stake for them in international trade, are brandishing the sword -- saber rattling -- on Taiwan?

Why would they risk trade for the sake of Taiwan?

DALEY: Well, I think Taiwan is an issue that is much greater to them and of interest and of concern politically, than trade or any other issue. The history of China, which you know very well from your travels there -- Taiwan has been an issue for them for many, many years, and they are intent on trying to work it out.

We want it to be worked out peacefully. And to work out an agreement. At this point, the discussions -- the comments by the Chinese leadership since the election and the comments by the...

HUNT: Since the Taiwan election...

DALEY: Pardon me, since the Taiwan election, and the president- elect of Taiwan's comments have been very measured and very cautious. The leadership -- the new leadership of Taiwan feel very strongly that China should enter the WTO and that the United States should engage them by giving them PNTR.

HUNT: OK. We're going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we'll talk to Secretary Daley again about the Als: Al Gore, Al Greenspan but certainly not Al Hunt.


HUNT: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you to put on that renown political cap of yours for a moment. The Gore-Bush -- both candidates wrapped up the nomination two months ago, the race was virtually dead even then. Today Bush is anywhere from four to eight points ahead. Why has the Gore campaign stalled?

DALEY: I don't think it's stalled at all. I think you have a natural flow after the letdown of the primaries, the attention, the focus. There are a lot of issues going on. The vice president's traveling. My sense is that this will be up and down, it'll be four to six -- Bush up four to six, Gore up, it'll go to the convention. When you come out of the conventions at Labor Day it'll be basically a dead heat and it'll be a horse race for 10, 11 weeks.

HUNT: Many Republicans and even some Democrats say one problem is the vice president is too relentlessly negative. For instance, calling -- labeling George Bush an isolationist. Do you agree with the criticism and do you think that George Bush is an isolationist?

DALEY: No, sir, I don't agree with the criticism. I think the vice president showed in the primaries and has shown that it is important to draw contrasts with your opponent. You cannot allow an opponent like Governor Bush to get away with saying, I'm all things to all folks. You've got to come out and you've got to, if the media is not going to do it and if a candidate's not going to lay out his programs, you've got to take him on to show that some of his programs may not be good for most Americans.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I think the aggressiveness which the vice president has brought to this campaign will be good and will be proven to be good, as it did in the primaries, will be good for his candidacy.

HUNT: You're an internationalist. Do you think that George W. Bush is an isolationist?

DALEY: I think the vice president is much more qualified than I to speak on foreign policy issues, Al. And -- but the vice president was responding to the governor's foreign policy speech, and I think he feels strongly. And no one knows the issues of foreign policy, in my opinion, I've been here a little over three years and watched people, no one understands these issues of the world better than Al Gore.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, you watch these economic statistics very carefully, I know, and this week there was a huge surprise when the retail sales went down. Nobody expected that to go down. Is this a harbinger of bad things to come? Are we starting to see just the very beginning of the good times being over in this economy? DALEY: I can't tell you how many times someone's predicted that the beginnings were occurring of the good times ending. We feel confident that these are solid times for this country, the foundation's good of the economy. There will be quarters where different economic indicators will shown change. Stock market will go up, it will go down, as Secretary Rubin used to say.

But overall we believe the economy is very strong and we believe it will stay strong and we believe it is also a changing economy that is good for the U.S. long term.

So I don't think people ought to get too hung up on quarterly or monthly numbers and try to glean too much out of them.

NOVAK: Nevertheless, one of your main jobs is to represent the American business community. Do you think your constituents, so to speak, the businessmen of America, would like the Federal Reserve, at its next policy-making meeting on May 16, to hold back a little bit and not raise the interest rate again 25, 50, 75 basis points? I'm not asking for your opinion, Mr. Secretary, just what do you think your constituency's view is?

DALEY: I would assume the business community would not like to see any increase, they never do, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't occur if the Fed believes that it's good for the overall economy.

NOVAK: Doesn't worry you?

DALEY: No, it doesn't me at all.

HUNT: One of the key decisions for your friend the vice president in the next couple months is to pick a running mate. What should be the chief criterion in the selection of a vice presidential candidate for Al Gore?

DALEY: I think, as he has said, it's the qualifications to be president and to take over and to be a true partner. Al Gore proved that a vice president no longer has to be somebody who just goes to funerals, as they did years ago, but can be a really important piece of an administration, and that's what I assume he will look for.

HUNT: Well, if that's the case, who would be -- just give us a couple strong candidates then.

DALEY: I do believe that he has a large number of people who could do this. I believe former Senator Mitchell, I believe Senator Daschle, Congressman Gephardt. I believe Richardson. I believe that there are a whole host -- Senator Kerrey (ph), Senator Durbin, Senator Bayh, Governor Hunt of North Carolina, Senator Graham -- there's a very large number of people out there on the Democratic side that I think would be...


HUNT: Which one best meets that standard that you just... DALEY: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't want to give names or who would be my favorite. I think any of the...


HUNT: ... could be just between us.


DALEY: I'd like that to be between you and me, Al, but we have really nothing to do with this choice, so it doesn't matter.

But I think any one of those would add to the vice president. But it's a tough decision. The old sort of criteria, do you look for one state or two states. I think that President Clinton in his choice of President Gore set a new standard, and that was to make sure that you picked somebody that was extremely qualified. Many people dismissed it at the beginning because they thought, Oh, it didn't bring in different geographic piece of the nation. But the fact is he was an important player in the campaign and more important in the administration.

NOVAK: Secretary Daley, one of the more startling poll results right now -- granted it's early -- but various polls show that George W. Bush is getting anywhere from 23 to 28 percentage points more votes than Al Gore is among white males. Huge. Almost an unprecedented margin among white males.

Now since you --your brother and your father and other people in the Democratic Party have done very well with white males, what advice would you give to Al Gore to try to solicit votes from this rather important minority group -- white men?


DALEY: I don't know if we're a minority group, Bob. But the truth of the matter, I think what he has to do is what I believe he will do in this campaign, as he did in the primaries. That is to take in an aggressive way, the campaign to the people, and contrast.

Right now Governor Bush is still very much an unknown. He is all things to all folks.

NOVAK: But why is -- why is the vice president so far down among white men? Why in that particular group?

DALEY: I think because there is a -- probably -- first of all, this administration has had to make some tough decisions over seven years. Governor Bush, on the national scene, has had to make no tough decisions that people have responded to. He hasn't been charged with having to take steps and take actions that could be controversial.

This president, this vice president, have not shied away from doing that. So, you do make enemies, you do make difficult constituencies. But I believe, I firmly believe this, that those numbers are going to change. This is going to be a horse race. This is going to be a race that goes down to the finish.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take another break, and when we come back, we will have the big question for Bill Daley.



NOVAK: The big question for Secretary of Commerce Daley. Mr. Secretary, there are some Democrats who posit an ideal vice presidential candidate. He is from a mid-Western industrial swing state. He's Catholic. He has wide political experience and wide government experience. Put that through the computer and it comes up William Daley.

If you were asked by Al Gore to be his vice presidential running mate, what would you say?

DALEY: It's an easy answer because I know it's not going to happen. So, I would say yes. But that's a question that will not be asked. Al Gore has some great choices.

Dick Durbin fits that profile beautifully -- Catholic, down state Illinois, quality senator..

NOVAK: But he says he doesn't want the job. He doesn't want -- he wouldn't like it. Would you like to be Vice President of the United States?

DALEY: Well, look this is a great conversation to have. It's a terrific...

NOVAK: Would you like it? Would you like it?

DALEY: I don't know -- sure, why not.

HUNT: Hey, I like that. It's good thinking. You've already turned down -- if it shouldn't come -- you've already turned down once the chance to be AL Gore's campaign manager.

DALEY: (inaudible)

HUNT: Tony Coehlo, the current campaign manager is ensnared a lot of controversy -- ethical and embarrassing allegations. If he should leave, would you take that job if Al Gore came to you and...

DALEY: Tony Coehlo has done a masterful job. A year ago most people had written off Al Gore; he was not going to win the primaries. Tony Coehlo and that team turned it around. They won and they're going to win the general election, and Tony Coehlo deserves a big piece of that credit.

HUNT: Well, Mr., -- I must -- thank you very much Mr. Vice President for being with us today.


My colleague Robert Novak and I will be back with a comment or two in just a moment.


HUNT: Bob, I think it's stunning that Bill Daley acknowledged that the top priority administration vote on China trade, they're not going to get one of the 10 Illinois Democratic congressman. Because of the effective nature of people like Bill Daley, it will pass, but it's going to be close.

NOVAK: And one of the reasons Al, as Secretary Daley said, is that organized labor is really working on the big industrial unions, and steel workers and auto workers and the teamsters. And it's not so much what happens in Washington, Secretary Daley said, it's in the districts they get to the Democratic voters and it's very hard for a Democratic administration to go against labor.

Somebody once said that this is the abortion issue for the Democratic Party, same as the abortion issue splits the Republican Party.

HUNT: You know Clinton doesn't get enough credit for having really a first class cabinet and Bill Daley is at the top of that list. A tremendous asset and a great political asset as he will be for Al Gore.

He laughs about being VP but they could do worse and they may.

NOVAK: Al, I don't think it would be a bad idea. You know the only thing against Daley is that he's not run for political office but he makes a very good speech. He's a very great in an interview. So, I say why not -- Bill Daley.

HUNT: We watched it.

NOVAK: I'm Robert Novak.

HUNT: And I'm Al Hunt.

Coming up in one-half-hour "RELIABLE SOURCES," the media's treatment of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's personal problems.

And at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "THE CAPITAL GANG" discusses the Giuliani story and the Bush-McCain summit with Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

NOVAK: That's all for now. Thanks for joining us.



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