President Delivers Remarks on Middle-Class Economics and Trade


The President:
Hello, OFA! (applause) Thank you. (applause) You guys
sound fired up. All right, all right,
settle down, settle down. (laughter) Settle down. You guys are — what did
they put in your coffee? (laughter) That’s — I meant you. Sit down. (laughter) Sit down, everybody. Golly. They’re still
taking pictures. So, first of all, I
want to thank José for the introduction. He is an example of what
inspires me every day. You get a chance to
meet people all across the country who are just
doing extraordinary things. And all of you are
in that category. I could not be prouder
of each and every one of you and everything
that you’re doing. You are out there every
day, you’re talking to your neighbors, you’re
talking with your coworkers. You’re doing the work to
change your communities. And that’s how a democracy
is supposed to work. That’s how America
is supposed to work. That’s how this country
has always moved forward. And that’s how it’s going
to keep moving forward. Before I start with
some other issues, I want to say publicly,
for the first time — I’ve been looking
forward to saying this — that I am very pleased
that Loretta Lynch has now been confirmed
as America’s next Attorney General. (applause) And America will be
better off for it. She’s spent her life
fighting for the fair and equal justice
that’s the foundation of our democracy. She’s going to do a great job
helping our communities — keeping them safe, but also
making sure our citizens are protected by equal
justice under the law. She’s got credibility
with law enforcement, but she’s also got
credibility with communities. And she knows that one of the
things that I want to work with her on is making sure
that all around the country we are rebuilding trust with
respect to our police forces, and making sure that they
and the communities together are working so that everybody
feels safe and everybody feels like the law is
working on their behalf. And I can’t think of a
better person to do it. We are very, very
proud of her. She’s going to
do a great job. (applause) So I’m proud of all of
you, and I hope all of you are proud of what
we’ve done together. (applause) You think back to how we
started this journey, why we started this
journey in the first place. We’d gone through years in
which too many Americans weren’t seeing their
hard work rewarded. Wages weren’t rising,
incomes weren’t rising. Schools weren’t preparing
enough of our kids to get the jobs and careers
in this new century. Our health care system was
burdening too many families, too many businesses; too
expensive, too inefficient. Other nations were racing
ahead of us on clean energy. We were addicted
to foreign oil. Just two weeks before
the 2008 election, we had the worst
financial crisis since the Great Depression. Ordinary folks got
hit like never before. But in the face of all that,
we believed in something that was more powerful. We believed that
America could change. And that’s why so many people
joined a grassroots campaign — Democrats, but also some
Republicans and independents — active citizens who
wanted to do their part to change this country
for the better. We believed we could reverse
the tide of outsourcing, we could draw new
jobs to America. And over the last five
years, our businesses have created more than
12 million new jobs. (applause) We believed that
we could prepare our kids for a more
competitive world. Today, our high school
graduation rate is at an all-time high, more young
people are finishing college than ever before. (applause) We said we could
reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect
our planet, do something about climate change. And today, America is not
just number one in oil and gas, we are also
number one in wind. We’re also generating 20
times more electricity from the sun than — last
year than we did the year I took office. We’re doubling the pace at
which we cut our carbon pollution, a commitment that
I’ve made and we’re going to be working with other
countries to meet. That’s all because of you. We believed we could fix a
broken health care system. Today, more than 16
million Americans have gained the security
of health insurance. (applause) That’s change. That’s what you
made possible. But here’s something I want
you to understand: We did not take on these fights
just because they were progressive priorities. We took them on because they
were economic priorities for this nation and for
every family out there. The priorities we’ve taken on
are critical to restoring the security and opportunity
for working families in the 21st century, in
this new global economy. We live in a time
when our success depends on our skills,
our knowledge. That’s why we’ve pushed
for higher standards and faster internet
in our schools. That’s why we reformed our
student loan program and increased grants and tax
credits so more people could afford to
go to college. We live in a time when
our young people will be trying lots of jobs,
different careers. And that’s why we made
health care more accessible, and more affordable, and more
portable — to give them the freedom to change jobs or
launch their own business, and not have to worry
that they were going to be losing
their insurance. We live in a time when
more and more households have both parents
in the workforce. That’s why we’re fighting
for things like childcare, and paid sick leave,
and paid family leave. Because hardworking
families who are doing the right thing need a little
bit of help on those things in order to be successful,
in order to be stable. So the point is, the
economy has changed. And we’re finally
getting to the business of updating our policies
to change along with it. We’re looking forward,
we’re not looking backwards. We’re looking
forward. (applause) We’ve got to recognize
the realities of the new economy. And we’ve got to fight to
make sure that in America, hard work is still rewarded
with the chance to take care of your family, and pass
on a sense of optimism and hope in better
days for our kids. That was always the vision
behind my campaign. That’s the vision that we
have shared ever since I took office. Those are the values that
inform my economic policies. And so one of the things I
want to talk about today — because I don’t want to
talk about the stuff we all agree on or
we’ve already done. (laughter) I want to talk about
some stuff that creates some controversy,
because it’s important. And one of those policies
right now that I’m focused on is new trade agreements
with other countries. And if you were
watching MSNBC and all this stuff, and —
you’re thinking, oh, man, I love Obama but
what’s going on here? (laughter) So I want to set the
record straight here. I want everybody to be clear
about what we’re doing, because I believe in
what I’m doing here. I want to talk about this
because — in part because it’s complicated, and also
it’s full of misinformation. But it’s really,
really important. This set of trade agreements
that we’re looking at are vital to middle-class
economics — the idea that this country does best
when everybody gets their fair shot, everybody
does their fair share, everybody plays by the
same set of rules. Simple values. American values. We want to make sure that our
own economy lives up to it. But we’ve also got to make sure
that the rest of the world is a place where we can
compete on a global scale. We want to make sure
we’re on an even playing field, not an
uneven playing field. We’ve got to deal with a
place where the rules are different in other
countries, and we’ve got to make sure that those
rules work for us. That’s why I believe America
needs to write the rules of the global economy. We can’t leave it
to somebody else. (applause) We’ve got to do whatever
we can to help our workers compete. And that’s not a
left or right issue. It’s not a business
or labor issue. It’s an issue like the
others that we’ve waged slowly, steadily. It’s a question of the
past and the future. I’ve talked a lot
recently about why new trade agreements are
important to our economy. I want everybody to
understand so when you go back to your communities and
you’re talking to people, you are clear about
why this is important. Ninety-five percent of the
world’s customers are outside of the United States, they’re
outside our borders — 95 percent. The fastest-growing markets
in the world are in Asia. Jobs at businesses that export
are good, middle-class jobs. On average they pay
more than other jobs. If you work for a
company that exports, they’re paying you probably
better on average. Those are facts. So it’s important
to our economy, but it’s also important
to our values. Our values have to reflect
— be reflected in these new trade agreements in the
way that they haven’t always been in past
trade agreements. Trade has always been
tough, and it’s always been tough especially in
the Democratic Party. A lot of people are
skeptical of trade deals, and a lot of times
it’s for good reason. Because for decades now,
technology made good jobs obsolete, global competition
meant jobs were being shipped overseas, past trade
deals didn’t always live up to the hype. A lot of trade deals
didn’t include the kinds of protections that we’re
fighting for today. And I saw it in Chicago
and in towns across Illinois where manufacturing
collapsed, plants closed down, jobs dried up. When I ran for office, I’d
talk about a man I met who had to pack up his own plant
before he was laid off. And that made a mockery of the
value of community and the dignity of work. So for a lot of Americans,
they attribute those changes to what happened in the
aftermath of trade agreements. And I understand that. But we’ve got to make
sure we learn the right lessons from that. We can’t learn the lesson that
somehow the global economy is going to stop and
we’re going to be able to put a bunch of barriers
in front of it. Because change is happening. You go into any store right
now, you go to any company right now, and it’s global. So we’ve got to be
able to compete. We’re not going to stop a
global economy at our shores. That’s the wrong
lesson to draw. We can’t go back to
the past. We shouldn’t want to. We want to make sure
we win the future. That’s what America is
about, winning the future. (applause) So if America does
not write rules for trade that are good for us, if we’re not
writing the rules of trade for the global economy while our
economy is still in a position of global strength — because
we’re right now the fastest — we’re the strongest economy
compared to a lot of our competitors — now is the
time for us to write rules that make sure that we aren’t
locked out of markets, that we’re able to sell our
goods in places like Asia. We’ve got to make sure
that we write rules so that our workers
and our businesses can compete fairly. If we don’t, then somebody
is going to write the rules. China is going to
write the rules. And when they do it, they’ll
do it in a way that gives Chinese workers advantages,
and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks
American goods out. And I refuse to accept
that for this country. We’ve the best
workers in the world. We have the best
businesses in the world. When the playing field is
level, nobody beats the United States of America
— products and services coming out of the United
States of America. So we can’t be
afraid to compete. (applause) So when I took office,
while we were doing all this other stuff
— while we were getting health care passed,
and we were trying to raise the minimum wage, and we
were changing student loans — I also started
thinking about how do we revamp trade
in a way that works for working families,
working Americans. And that’s what we’ve done
negotiating a new trade partnership in the
Asia Pacific region. It’s the highest-standard
trade agreement in our history. It is the most progressive
trade agreement in our history. It’s got strong
provisions for workers, strong provisions
for the environment. And unlike some past
trade agreements, all these provisions are
actually enforceable. If you’re a country that
wants to be in this agreement, you’ve got to
meet these high standards. Once you’re a part
of this partnership, if you violate your
responsibilities, there are consequences. There are penalties. So if we have this trade
agreement in place, it means that other
countries, they’ve got to treat their
workers better. They’ve got to treat
the environment better. They’ve got to think
about logging and fishing and whether that’s
destroying the planet. They’ve got to make sure
that they’ve got laws against child labor. And so it would strengthen
our hand overseas, and it gives us the tools
to open up other markets to our goods and services to
make sure they’re playing by the same rules we are. And because this partnership
includes Mexico and Canada, it fixes a lot that
was wrong with NAFTA when it was passed
back in the ’90s. (applause) So instead of
having a race to the bottom, for lower wages and worse
working conditions and more abuse of our natural
resources, this is a race to the top. It’s not just good
for our businesses, it’s good for our workers. And along with it,
we’re making sure that American workers can retool
through training programs and community colleges, use
new skills to transition to new jobs. So the bottom line is this:
These new trade partnerships would level the
playing field. And when the playing
field is level, American workers always win. And I just have to say,
as I’ve been listening to some of this debate
— I’ve got some good friends who are opposed to
this trade agreement, but when I ask them
specifically what is it that you oppose, they
start talking about NAFTA. (laughter) And I’m thinking,
well, I had just come out of law school
when NAFTA was passed. (laughter) That’s not the trade
agreement I’m passing. (laughter) So you need to tell me
what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that
was passed 25 years ago. And the fact is, is that
if you end up just being opposed to this trade
deal, then that means you’re satisfied with
the status quo. But that doesn’t make
any sense because the status quo isn’t
working for our workers. (applause) You go out on the street
right now and you look at all the cars that are
passing by, you’ll see Hondas. You’ll see Toyotas. You’ll see Nissans. Those are all fine cars;
nothing wrong with that. But when you travel to
Tokyo, you don’t see Fords. (laughter) You don’t see Chevys. You don’t see Chryslers. So why would we want to
maintain the current status quo, where people
are selling a bunch of stuff here and we
can’t sell there? Why wouldn’t we want to
rewrite those rules so there is some reciprocity and
we can start opening up the Japanese market? That would be good
for American workers. Same goes for the other 10
countries in the agreement. (applause) Look, remember where
the auto industry was at when I came
into office. I’ve been to auto plants all
across the country that would have closed if American
workers hadn’t rebuilt, retooled, come back and
silenced all the naysayers, and proven that America can
build some of the best new cars in the world. (applause) And they shouldn’t be
competing with one tied behind their — one hand
tied behind their back. They should be able to sell
cars everywhere in the world. But when I hear
folks saying, “Oh, this trade deal would destroy
the auto industry” — listen, I spent a lot of
time and a lot of political capital to save
the auto industry. Why would I pass a
trade deal that was bad for U.S. autoworkers? That doesn’t
make any sense. (applause) Under my watch,
under my policies, American manufacturing
is creating new jobs for the first time
since the 1990s. We’re opening up new
plants at the fastest pace in nearly 20 years. So we shouldn’t have all
that good work just restricted to selling
in the United States. We shouldn’t have “Made
in the USA” just apply to U.S. customers. We want “Made in the
USA” sold everywhere, all around the world. That’s good for
American businesses and American workers. (applause) So when people say that
this trade deal is bad for working families, they
don’t know what they’re talking about. I take that personally. My entire presidency has been
about helping working families. (applause) I’ve been
working too hard at this. I’ve got some of those folks
who are saying this stuff after all I’ve done to help
lift their industries up. I’ve spent six and a half years
trying to wrestle this economy out of the worst recession
since the Great Depression, and rebuild it so that it
benefits working Americans. (applause) I’ve had to do it
against relentless opposition. But every single thing we’ve
done — from Obamacare, to Wall Street reform,
to student loan reform, to credit card reform, to
fighting for a fairer tax code, to higher minimum wages,
to a smarter workplace — all of it’s focused
on making sure it’s a good deal for
middle-class families and folks who are
working hard to get into the middle class. (applause) I’ve been talking
about things like reversing rising inequality and
strengthening social mobility since before it was cool. (laughter) Go back to my first campaign
for the United States Senate. I got a bunch of people now
talking about inequality, but back then they
sure weren’t. Go back and look at the
speech I gave in Kansas four years ago on
economic fairness. Go back and look at
the speech I gave in Southeast D.C. two years
ago on income inequality. Back then, folks were saying I
was preaching class warfare. Now, suddenly it’s their
campaign platforms. (laughter and applause) Now, some of these folks
are friends of mine. I love them to death. (laughter) But in the same way that
when I was arguing for health care reform I asked
people to look at the facts — somebody comes up with a
slogan like “Death Panel,” doesn’t mean it’s true. Look at the facts. The same thing
is true on this. Look at the facts. Don’t just throw a bunch
of stuff out there and see if it sticks. And we should be
mindful of the past. We can’t ignore what’s
happened and why people have felt sometimes that trade
agreements weren’t working for them, that corporations
were shipping out jobs. All those things happened. But we can’t ignore the
realities of the new economy. And we can’t just oppose
trade on reflex alone. You’ve got to fight for
trade that benefits our workers on our terms. We’ve got to give every
single American who wakes up, sends their kids to
school, rolls up their sleeves, punches in each
day the chance to do what we do best —
innovate and build and sell the best
products and ideas in the world to every
corner of the world. That’s what I believe in. Smart, new, 21st century
trade agreements are as important to helping
the middle class get ahead in this new economy as
things like job training, and higher education, and
affordable health care. They’re all part
of a package. Audience Member: And
decrease the deficit. The President: Well,
I did that, too. (laughter and applause) And if I didn’t think
this was the right thing to do
for working families, I would not be doing it. I mean, think about it. I’ve got some of these folks
who are friends of mine, allies of mine saying this
trade deal would destroy the American working
families, despite the fact that I’ve done everything
in my power to make sure that working families
are empowered. And, by the way, they’ve
been with me on everything. So by this logic, I would
have had to do all this stuff for the last six and a half
years, and then, suddenly, just say, well, I want to
just destroy all of that. (laughter) Does that make sense? Audience: No. The President: No,
it — right answer. It does not. (laughter) If there was a trade
agreement that undercut working families, I
wouldn’t sign it. The Chamber of Commerce
didn’t elect me twice — working folks did. I ran for office. (applause) I ran for office in the
first place to expand the all-American idea of
opportunity — no matter where you come from,
what you look like, how you started
out, who you love, you can make it if you
try here in America. I don’t forget
where I came from. I don’t forget
how I started. I moved to Chicago in my
early 20s with barely anything except a desire
to make a difference. I wanted to make sure my
life attached itself to giving people a chance
at opportunity — helping kids get a great education,
helping parents who live in poverty get decent
jobs that let them raise a family, help folks
who work hard all day get health insurance so
they don’t have to go to the emergency room
when they get sick. So I became an organizer,
like all of you. And I learned that change
comes slow sometimes, and sometimes there
are disappointments. But I also learned the
sense of purpose that comes by working together. I learned that underneath
our differences, there are hopes and
aspirations and grit and resilience that
binds us together. That’s why I do this. But what I also learned
was that you don’t make change
through slogans. You don’t make change
through ignoring realities. Sometimes you do things
that are tough but the right thing to do to
prepare us for the future. If I was just looking
at the polling, I wouldn’t have
done health care. But it was the
right thing to do. (applause) If I — it
would be a lot easier for me politically not
to do this Iran deal. But it’s the right
thing to do. (applause) Now, those things
are popular with Democrats. Every once in a while there
are some things that aren’t as popular with Democrats,
but they still need to be done because they’re
the right thing to do. (applause) These trade agreements are
the right thing to do. And if somebody doesn’t
agree with that, show me specifically
what it is that you’re concerned about. I’m happy to have a
discussion about it. But don’t just throw
out a bunch of stuff, making accusations
about it. I’m proud of all of you. (applause) And I’m a little envious
that a lot of you seem to be better at
organizing than I was. (laughter) You’re smarter. You’re more effective. You got better
tools, like Connect. (applause) So I’m still
asking for your help. Keep talking to
your friends. Talk to your neighbors. Talk about why
this fight matters. Talk about why all the things
we’re doing we’re just continuing to push on. I want you to share
OFA content — forward these emails, and
retweet these tweets. Join the Economic
Opportunity group on Connect to engage and get involved
with people all across the country who share
your hopes and dreams. That’s how change starts —
each one of you reaching out to somebody else. You give me hope. You guys are doing
extraordinary things. You’ve done extraordinary
things these past eight years. That’s just a preview
of what you’re going to accomplish in
the years ahead. Thank you, OFA. Love you. (applause) Thank you.

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