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Tim Ryan on China tariffs, environmental policy and immigration

2020 presidential contender and Rep. Tim Ryan said Monday that imposing tariffs on China “needs to be part of a larger strategy” on trade, joining other Democrats who’ve criticized the Trump administration’s trade policies after talks with China broke down last week.

The U.S. should focus on boosting growth in electric vehicles, and invest in solar and wind power, among other industries, the Ohio Democrat said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff..

“This has to happen in the Oval Office and we’re not getting that kind of leadership. That’s how you beat China,” Ryan said.

Ryan said his focus on economic issues while representing northeast Ohio in Congress set him apart from the other 20-plus Democratic presidential candidates vying to take on President Donald Trump next year.

“I’ve been at the epicenter of de-industrialization” in the U.S, Ryan said, adding: “What makes me different is that I have that experience, but also that I’ve been thinking about” how to improve economic opportunity.

In the NewsHour interview, Ryan also touched on foreign policy, the environment and immigration. Here are some other highlights:

On the Green New Deal: Ryan has not signed onto the House Democrats’ Green New Deal legislation, but said he supported taking action on climate change. “I embrace a Green New Deal, I just think we have to have public-private partnerships if we’re going to get there. We have to align the environmental incentives with the financial incentives,” Ryan said.

On immigration: Ryan said he was in “lock-step with all progressives” on immigration issues, but argued that Americans also care about border security. “We have an opioid crisis in Ohio. People are dying left and right and we got to make sure those drugs don’t get into our country,” he said.

On food deserts and health care: Ryan introduced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to eliminate neighborhood blight, clean up communities and create a robust urban agriculture program. He said that he will “be proposing an Urban Marshall Plan for us to really get into these communities, big and small, to make sure that people do have access to fresh, healthy food.”

Ryan linked the issues to health care, calling the nation’s current health care system a “disease care system.”

“That’s how you ultimately fix the health care system: free up billions of dollars that we can invest back into our communities, into our research, into our long-term prosperity in the United States.”

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tim Ryan has long been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was just 29 years old when he was first elected to Congress in 2002, representing a district including Youngstown, Ohio, a working-class town hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

    He gained national attention in 2016, when he challenged Nancy Pelosi for her leadership position. Today, he is one of more than 20 Democrats running for his party's presidential nomination.

    Tim Ryan, welcome to the program.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio:

    Thanks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So let's start with China and trade, a topic I just spoke with James Hoffa of the Teamsters about.

    What do you think about President Trump's tariffs, his punishing China for what he says is an unfair playing feel?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    I think that tariffs are a tactic that need to be utilized when China is cheating. And they do cheat. They cheat with intellectual property.

    They have dumped oil country tubular goods, steel tubing, into districts like mine for a long time. And we need to have those tariffs utilized to remedy that.

    But there's — it needs to be part of a larger strategy. That's the problem with the president. One day, they're on, one day, they're off. It's not part of a larger strategy on how we deal with China.

    I actually think that we beat China, we deal with China by actually having an industrial policy in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does that mean?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    That means that there are industries that are growing at 25 or 30 percent. We have to build our way out of this thing.

    Electric vehicles, there is one to two million now. There is going to be 30 million electric vehicles in the next 10 years. Right now, China dominates 40 percent of that market. Where is the American industrial policy to dominate electric vehicles?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in your own district, the 13th District of Ohio, the Lordstown General Motors plant, as we know, a lot of distress over the fact that that shut down, 1,600 jobs, I believe it was.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They were making some electric vehicles, but that portion of vehicle manufacturing just hasn't taken off yet in this country.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Well, there is no industrial policy.

    We were making the Chevy Cruze. And if I were president, I would sit down with the big three automakers, any emerging companies that are dealing with those kind of electric vehicles, the Department of Energy. There are programs that the president has zeroed out around electric vehicles.

    The Transportation Department, the venture capital community. Let's dominate this. This has to happen at the White House level. This has to happen in the Oval Office. And we're not getting that kind of leadership. That's how you beat China.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's just back up.

    How are you different? What makes Tim Ryan stand out from the other 20-some Democrats who are running for president?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Because I have been at the epicenter of deindustrialization in the United States of America.

    When jobs are lost, I'm at the union hall. I know people in these factories. I know — they're my family. They're my friends. We have been dealing with this for 20 years. And I have been right there.

    What makes me different is that I have that experience, but also that I have been thinking about, how the heck do we get out of this mess?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you, I mean, with all due respect, you haven't been able to stop the collapse of so much of the manufacturing sector.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    No. No, I haven't. That's why I'm running for president, because it's going to take presidential leadership.

    And, quite frankly, both parties have failed to address the implosion of these communities. We started down the road of globalization, automation. No one ever thought about the workers. They have been forgotten, unheard and unseen.

    And President Trump came in and swept in, and they voted for him, because…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, right now, the economy is doing well, and the president is saying: It's because of my policies.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    No, there is no shot.

    I mean, look, the stock market is as high as it's ever been. The unemployment rate is low. People are still struggling. Workers are still struggling, white, black, brown, gay, straight. They're surviving. They are not thriving. They can barely keep their head above water, prescription drug costs, health care costs.

    Wages aren't going up nearly at the level they need to be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And why is Tim Ryan better in terms of leading this country than, say, Joe Biden, who also comes from working-class America, Scranton, Pennsylvania?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Like you, he — so, he comes out of a distressed — economically distressed area.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he's got a lot more experience than you.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Well, this election is about the future.

    And I will tell you that I understand what's happening in the economy right now, and I understand the direction we need to go in. We need to get in front of these growing industries. Electric vehicles is one, solar, wind, additive manufacturing, A.I., artificial intelligence.

    We have got to dominate these. In the 1970s, when the steel mills closed, the technology in those steel mills was pre-World War I. We're at the same point now. We can either be afraid of these technologies, or we can dominate them, infuse them into these industries, and then cut these workers in on the deal.

    That's how we win the future in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you quickly about a couple of other issues.

    The environment. You have taken, I think it's fair to say, a more pro-business approach than some of your Democratic competitors.

    You have not fully embraced the Green New Deal. What are you saying needs to be done differently about the environment?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Oh, I embraced a green new deal.

    I just think we have to have public-private partnerships if we're going to get there. We have to align the environmental incentives with the financial incentives. If we don't have the profit motive help in the ingenuity and the innovation that comes from our capitalistic system aligned with fixing the environment, it's going the take us forever to do it.

    The Department of Energy has some role. Government has some role. But it can't be a centralized plan. How do we get private investment, venture capital ramping these things up and build our way out of this?

    Electric vehicles, solar, wind, these are the industries that are growing. You can put workers to work, like Jimmy Hoffa's people, and de-carbonize the American economy, and everybody wins. It seems to me like it makes a lot of sense.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another issue where you seem to stand out from some of your Democratic competitors is immigration.

    You have said Democrats can't go into Ohio, the Great Lakes region of this country, and ask workers to be with them unless they think about border security.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Making people and their children feel safer.

    So what would you do differently about the border?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    On the immigration, I'm lockstep with all progressives, no question about it. We need to have a compassionate immigration system. We should accommodate refugees. We should have a pathway to citizenship. I'm 1000 percent for all that.

    But if — the American people want to know that you're also going to protect them. We have an opiate crisis in Ohio. People are dying left and right, and we have got to make sure those drugs don't get into our country.

    So we better convince everybody in these states…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How would you do that?

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Well, you use technology. Trump is using the old line tariffs, old economy, old approach for globalization. He's using the wall, is his technique for border security.

    You need more dogs. You need — on the ports of entry, more Border Patrol. There are all kinds of technology we can use to make sure this happens. You have to have a better relationship with Mexico. And, quite frankly, you need to have — you need to get established in Central America, these countries that are unsecure, insecure. People are coming to the United States.

    We don't even have an ambassador in Honduras. Go to the heart of the problem and solve it there, so that we're not dealing with it on our border.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Tim Ryan, running for president, running for the Democratic nomination, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan:

    Thanks for having me.

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