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Pence warns China as he vows to keep US economy growing

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Taylor University Commencement May 18, 2019 (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Vice President Mike Pence vowed Monday to keep America’s economy growing in part by passing a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, while warning China against committing violence against protesters in Hong Kong.

In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Pence touted the economic recovery of the nation and by extension Detroit through the cutting of bureaucratic red tape and creating enterprise zones in places like Detroit, Michigan’s largest city.

But the vice president also warned that China would imperil trade talks if it committed violence in Hong Kong. A two-month-old protest movement on the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, has expanded to include cries for more democracy and government accountability, while Chinese military forces have amassed across the straits from Taiwan.

The United States already has slapped $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods with more scheduled to take place in a bid to get the Chinese government to stop currency manipulation, forced technology transfers by U.S. companies, illegal subsidies and other unfair and illegal trade practices, Pence said.

“We don’t want China’s markets to suffer. We want them to thrive,” he said before the audience at the Motorcity Casino’s Sound Board auditorium. “… But for the United States to make a deal with China, Beijing needs to honor its commitments.”

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“The days of stealing American ideas are over,” he said.

Pence also chastised Chinese leaders for not honoring basic human rights.

Pence also asked the audience to get the Democratic-controlled House to approve the United States Mexico Canada trade agreement as a way to protect American jobs and prosperity.

The proposed trade pact, which is supposed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement that President Donald Trump campaigned against three years ago, calls for increasing from 62.5% to 75% the percentage of a car’s parts that have to come from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to qualify for duty-free treatment.

In addition, the USMCA requires that 40-45% of an auto’s content be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

It contains provisions to protect up to 2.6 million cars and $32.4 billion worth of parts imported from Canada and Mexico from tariffs on imported vehicles that are being considered separately by the Trump administration. Vehicles not meeting the requirements would be subject to a 2.5% duty.

But Pence started his speech by noting Trump unveiled his economic plan during an address before the Detroit Economic Club in August 2016.

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“It’s amazing to think three years ago, a time when Americans were struggling through what was the slowest economic recovery since World War II,” he said. “It’s amazing for eight solid years the American economy, the most powerful economy in the history of the world, had grown by less than two percentage points.”

But Trump promised a new era of “American prosperity and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said.

The typical Michigan family of four is saving about $2,000 a year in tax cuts, Pence said.

“The American economy is booming,” he said. “After eight long years of burdensome taxes and regulations, we went right to work.”

“We rolled back red tape,” he said. “In fact, President Trump has signed more laws cutting federal red tape than any president in American history, saving more than $33 billion in regulatory costs.”

Pence’s comments came as Trump tweeted Monday that “Democrats are trying to ‘will’ the Economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 Election” and urged the Federal Reserve Board to cut interests and pump up the money supply to further stimulate the economy.

Trump hasn’t left cities behind, Pence said, adding that the administration has created 8,700 opportunity zones across America, including 70 in Detroit.

The United States is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world thanks to the president’s decision to withdraw from the “disastrous Paris climate accord,” he said.

“Since Election Day 2016, businesses large and small have created more than 6.2 million jobs and there are more Americans working today than ever before in the history of this country,” the vice president said.

“The American dream is working again for every American,” he said, including African Americans, and wages are rising “fastest for blue-collar working Americans. The forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more.”

Among those in attendance were former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, a DeWitt Republican whom President Donald Trump has nominated for U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. Also there was John James, the Detroit businessman and Farmington Hills Republican who running to face U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, in next year’s election.

Making the trip with the vice president was Detroit native Ben Carson, the Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary.

Carson said many people “bad mouth Detroit at the time” but that it’s a great city seeing a turnaround like other cities across the country under the Trump economy.

“What’s going in Detroit, this big comeback, is a story of what’s happening all across this nation,” Carson said. “There was a time of enormous economic uncertainty. That seems to be going away. People are rolling up their sleeves here in Detroit.”

James said he’s excited about the Pence visit. The vice president campaigned heavily for James in 2018 when he lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing.

“Michigan is very important for the (Trump) administration and they’re showing it by showing up,” James said. “I’m really glad to see this attention on Michigan. We’re going to need all the help we can get to take our state and our people to the next level.”

When asked if the economy may be headed for a recession and if Pence should address it, James said, “I’m looking forward to lending any of all the skills that I have in my repertoire to make sure that Michigan families have everything they need and have the adequate representation in Washington.”

Former Congressman Mike Bishop, the Rochester Republican who lost his seat in 2018, said the Pence’s message should be “look at Detroit, look at the comeback city.” And it doesn’t have to be a partisan speech, he said.

“We are alive and well. Look at us 10 years ago. This city’s made a dramatic comeback,” Bishop said. “I just think with that kind of positive message would be great. I do think the public policy makes a difference. Leadership makes a difference.”

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© 2019 The Detroit News