Rep. Darrell Issa: Tariffs Are A Means Not An End, A Tool To Get To Free Trade


The Republican congressman from California urges the Trump administration to hold China accountable for its trade practices.

BARTIROMO: And joining me right now is California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. He sits on both the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees.

And it is great to see you, Congressman.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, thanks for having me on.

And thanks for having me follow the hardest guy to follow I know. Larry Kudlow is this -- you were talking to one of the great free traders.

And the fact that he's there at the president's side tells you that tariffs are a tool to get to free trade. His very being in the administration says that.

BARTIROMO: What about -- what about the issues around China specifically? I mean, this could go on for years, right? You're dealing with a dictator for life. He doesn't care.

ISSA: We have got to be prepared to make China do what they have said they were going to do.

I was in China a few weeks ago for the World Economic Forum there. And Xi came up and he talked like a Republican, tax cuts and ending subsidies and so on. He did 45 minutes of a speech that nobody believed, but it sounded great.


ISSA: You have got to hold China accountable to what they say they're going to do, not what they have been doing, which includes spying on us.

It includes stealing our technology. It includes bullying their neighbors. It includes their military activities in the South China Sea.

The one interesting thing, there's an old expression that, in America, we only do two things wrong at the presidential level. It's what we do and what we fail to do. And the last couple administrations failed to take China on. And now everyone's upset because this president's taking China on.

Well, I would rather make the mistake of taking China on than make the guaranteed mistake of not doing it and allowing them to continue to grow with a false economy.

BARTIROMO: Given that we just saw this new Canada deal, USMCA, does that empower the president to have a unified front against China?

I mean, he's working with the Europeans, apparently, trying to do another deal on trade with the E.U., and the same with Japan. He needs allies to go up against China, doesn't he?

ISSA: Well, he does, but we will never have them.


ISSA: The fact is, these trading partners will be our trading partners.

And moving factories from China to South Korea and to Vietnam and to other places will be part of the solution if China cannot get its act together. But the courage of America is not found in Europe. The courage of America is not even found in Japan.

These people will tell you what China's doing wrong. They will even talk about the WTO complaint. They are unlikely to join us and aggressively do what this president is doing. And that's OK.

We can think of all the times in which America led and it was lonely, but at the end of it all, people said, we're sure glad you did. That's what we're dealing with today.

So I don't want to raise expectations that somehow the Europeans are going to get a spine. It's not in their DNA. But they are looking for the same alternative trading partners that we are. People other -- there are countries other than China that can deliver a quality product, in concert with us, and preferably one that has a free market economy.

BARTIROMO: I want to ask you what this all means for the midterms, as well as get your take on North Korea.

Let's slip in a quick break. More with Congressman Darrell Issa on the secretary of state's new meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un -- when we come right back.

Stay with us.


BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapping up his fourth visit to North Korea earlier today. New reports that the president and Kim Jong-un are working toward holding another summit.

I'm back with Congressman Darrell Issa.

A good idea to hold another summit, Congressman?

ISSA: It's a good idea to talk and to listen and exchange.

Although the -- what we have gotten out of North Korea is modest, it's more than any previous president got without making huge concessions. We have given the North Koreans nothing, and they have given us a little and promised to give more.

BARTIROMO: The president just tweeted this, this morning: "Secretary Pompeo had a good meeting with Chairman Kim today in Pyongyang. Progress made on the Singapore summit agreements. I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim again in the near future."

What does he need to do to make people believe that he's actually serious about denuclearization? Because, like you said, they haven't really given us much.

ISSA: Well, right now, the president and the secretary have a great dual strategy.

You have got the South Korean president playing shuttle diplomacy on how that economy can be bolstered by its relationship with South Korea, a free trading partner, and you have got the president making it clear that he's not willing to give major concessions until he sees action.

But he is willing to allow the North Koreans and the South Koreans to settle their differences. In other words, North Korea will not be invaded by us, something they have been concerned about.

So I think the -- President Trump saying he won't use a stick and the South Korean government talking about the carrot is a great combination. And I think the secretary of state and the president deserve tremendous credit for coming up with a strategy that is working.

BARTIROMO: This is a big deal. I know that.

What does all of this mean, whether it is the fight we just came out of it in terms of the Kavanaugh hearing, the fight between Republicans and Democrats and this hate that came out of -- from it, as well as this progress on North Korea, progress on the economic story?

What does all this mean, in your view, going into the midterms?

ISSA: Really, what we're going to be having is a referendum on whether or not you want this kind of change to continue.

This has been phenomenal change. And you have had the Democrats absolutely trying to prevent it again and again. They have opposed every one of the initiatives that the president has started on, including the ones he's wrapped up with Mexico and Canada.

And you will notice there's not a word saying, oh, wow, isn't it great? We're increasing -- reducing the number -- the amount of Chinese goods, increasing the North American content in our trade agreement. We have taken care of a big part of the milk problem with Canada.

You're not going to hear that. You know what they're saying now? Oh, these are modest.

Well, it wasn't modest when the president demanded exactly what he got, but it somehow is modest when he got it.

BARTIROMO: Nancy Pelosi called the tax cut crumbs, so there you go.


BARTIROMO: Congressman...

ISSA: Well, if you're as rich as her, it's peanuts, I guess.

BARTIROMO: Well, there you go.

Congressman, it's great to see you this morning.

ISSA: Thanks, Maria.

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