National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow had an impromptu and wide-ranging North Lawn gaggle with reporters shortly before 9:30 am.
Kudlow praised the trade deals Trump made last week and said they would send a “signal to China.” He also said the White House is planning a summit with technology company leaders in the coming weeks. Kudlow said Google CEO Sundar Pichai committed to participating when the pair met last week.
“We had a great meeting, great meeting. I admire him, respect him, very constructive back and forth. He was extremely cooperative. I really enjoyed it and he committed to coming back to the White House,” Kudlow said of Pichai adding, “We’re going to have a little conference. The president will preside over it. We will have the big internet companies, the big social media companies, search companies, and some who are dissatisfied with those companies. And I don’t know if we’ve set a date yet, but I reckon it’s going to be around the middle of October.”
Kudlow was then asked if Twitter and Facebook would be participating in the conference along with Google.
“That is our hope,” he said.
Kudlow also discussed the tax cuts, jobs numbers, and Amazon’s decision to raise its minimum wage. The rest of his comments are below.
Kudlow was initially asked about a Wall Street Journal editorial that criticized the new North American trade deal as being worse than the status quo.
“I don’t think so. With respect, I mean they’re very dear friends of mine, I think the president delivered and I think the North American story is actually stronger among the three countries. You know, there’s a bunch of things going on here. Number one, we are helping our manufacturing workers, blue collar workers. … we broke through on dairy … wheat and some other grains. I think the — you know the continent as a whole now stands united against what I’m going to call unfair trading practices by you know who, starts with a ‘C’ and ends with an ‘A,'” Kudlow said.
“Canada?” a reporter asked.
“No. Nice try. Honestly, I think it sends a signal to China that we are acting as one and I think that’s very good,” said Kudlow.
Kudlow specified that he “really” likes the “currency stability provision” and said he’d like to see that adopted by the G20 to foster “cooperation and coordination rather than currency wars.”
“I understand nothing’s perfect in life, but I think it’s a solid deal. It’s a pro-growth deal. Look, just by itself, we’ve improved the supply chains, the tariffs … tariff-free zone is in effect, supply chains will be there, business will not be disrupted. All those threats have not come to pass. So, I think it’s a good deal. I think the president deserves some credit,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow was also asked “what happens next” with aluminum and steel tariffs. He said there would be “discussions.” Kudlow said he could not provide a timeframe for those talks because that’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s “domain.” However, he predicted the discussions would be positive.
“Let me say this, constructive discussions, we’re all working together now. That’s very important. The call between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump was very good yesterday,” Kudlow said.
The trade deal needs to be ratified by Congress. A reporter asked Kudlow what he sees as “the risk” for Democrats if they don’t support Trump on the agreement.
“You know, if the Democrats want to help working folks, they’ll go with this deal OK? Because we consulted with them. Lighthizer — all the way we had meetings at the White House. I was at some of them with the top unions. … They want to help working folks, they’ll go with this deal. That’s my view. You look at it, it’s tailor-made for them. It’s what they asked for, by the way, what they asked for. Republicans will be happy that we got the deal with no disruption, supply chains will continue, a lot of protection of intellectual property, a lot of movement for financial services, for example, which GOP folks wanted. It’s a lot in here for both sides. Whether that works out, I don’t know. It’s a crazy time,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow was also asked for his opinion about Amazon raising its minimum wage.
“Good for them. I’m in favor of higher wages,” said Kudlow.
Kudlow was pressed on whether Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made “the right decision.”
“It’s a business decision. He’s a pretty good businessman. How’d the stock do? … It went up? it always goes up. … He’s a smart guy. Higher wages, terrific .. more people working and prospering … is not inflationary it’s a good thing, not a bad thing,” Kudlow said. “That’s just what’s happening in the economy. … See those numbers on blue collar workers? The surge in blue-collar workers published in that famous supply-side newspaper above the fold, the Washington Post, blue-collar workers rising. Love that.”
Kudlow was asked where things currently stand with China and what signal he hopes Beijing will take from the trade deal.
“There is a trade coalition of the willing that is going to fix a lot of broke areas of international trade getting on the same page and cooperating. And that coalition will stand up to China, their unfair trading practices, their barriers, their IP theft. … You know the story,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow also suggested trade agreements made by Japan and the EU would have a positive impact.
“I don’t think it’s gotten enough play. The so-called tripartite agreement that was signed in New York at the UN. Ambassador Lighthizer spoke to it … I think that’s very important. EU, Japan, US, we’re going to send a signal to the Chinese. We’re not doing this alone. We’re not doing this alone. I think that President Trump would go it alone, but we’re getting a lot of support from our allies and, of course, the North American deal. … I hope the Chinese are listening. The rest of the world wants them to play fair. Quit breaking the rules. … We will talk. We will talk. … The president’s said that. The president, you know, he’s on good terms with President Xi, so we’ll talk,” Kudlow said.
Last week, President Trump accused China of interfering in U.S. elections. Kudlow was asked if he believed China should be sanctioned for this.
“I’m going to leave that to the president,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow was also questioned about whether there is more room for immigrant workers with the economy doing well.
“I think there’s a lot of room in the rising economy for a full reform of our immigration system and new, new calculus and formulas for legal immigrants. I think that is key, a key priority for the president. Of course … the system is a mess, the illegals is a mess, what they do afterwards is a mess. I’m not an expert on this, but that includes border security, that includes the wall, that includes merit entrance. You know, there’s no right to walk into America and do x, y, z. So, this is the time to do that as the country prospers, yes absolutely,” said Kudlow.
Kudlow was asked where trade tensions with China will “end” and whether the White House will consider further subsidies for farmers or consumers who are “hurt in the process.”
“Well, we want to protect the folks. I mean, we’ve made that very clear. The farmers, you know, they’re patriots. They always say to us, ‘Trade, not aid.’ OK? But we stand as a backstop. We’ve committed to, I don’t know, I think just under $5 billion. There could be more if necessary, but you know, this Canadian deal is going to be very helpful. It may not affect soybeans. I’m not an expert on the farm economy, it does affect dairy, wheat, and some others, wine I think. I haven’t had a drink in 23 years, but wine is in there so that’s good. … We’re going to backstop the farmers, the president’s made that very clear. But better in the long run to just make good trade deals, market openings, market openings. That includes that ‘C’ word, C-H-I-N-A, market openings,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow said he didn’t “want to go there” when asked if there was any limit to potential subsidies.
“I’m sure there are limits,” he said.
Last week, President Trump signed a spending bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood. Kudlow was asked why Trump signed the bill in light of this.
“It’s a tough call. Kept the government open on the advice of the Republican leaders. Very tough call,” Kudlow said. “He decided to go with the advice of the leadership.”
A reporter pressed Kudlow on whether Trump felt leadership had let him down.
“Here’s what I’ll say, we turn the page in the next fiscal year. You’re going to see very tough budgets from the administration, very tough budget and I’ll leave it at that,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow took a final question before leaving to attend a “trade meeting.” He was asked his opinion on a Wall Street Journal that said a fraction of the tax cuts that corporations have received during the Trump administration have made it to workers’ paychecks.
“Oh lord. This again? .. My reaction is the tax cuts have been an unambiguous success. The economy is growing at near four percent. It’s an economic boom that virtually everyone outside of this building thought would be impossible. We’ve created new incentives to work, save, and invest, new incentives for business investment. We’re going to have the best business cap ex-investment in probably 20 years OK?
Kudlow cited data compiled by Kevin Hassett, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
“Individuals, small business, families, everybody, wages are rising. So I’m not sure of these calculations. I didn’t see that particular article. Wages are rising. Take home pay after tax and inflation is rising. … Paychecks are getting fatter. Blue collar workers are prospering. What do I need to prove here? … At some point, look at the data please. I understand we have disagreements. … I’m just saying, right now, please help me look at the data. That’s all,” Kudlow said.