During a campaign stop in Collierville, former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty sat down with The Commercial Appeal to discuss his bid to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

In the interview, Hagerty praised President Donald Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and continued his hard stance on China, a frequent theme among Republican senate candidates this year.

The interview is below in its entirety. Some sentences are edited for clarity.

Commercial Appeal: And so, first of all, I’m gonna ask you, sir, about China, you’ve made a lot of statements about China on the campaign trail, when it’s all said and done, if you’re elected to the U.S. Senate, where should the United States relationship with China be? They’re our largest trading partner. At the same time, you’ve talked about the need to onshore jobs back to the United States. How does economic nationalism … not become a global armed conflict?

Hagerty: “Well, this is a huge threat for us. China, as you say, is the second largest economy after the United States, and they’re too big of an economy to ignore. We need to find a way to work with them. The way to work work with them is to get the Communist Chinese regime that runs that country to change its behavior. That’s what this has been about.

What we’ve done is we’ve struck a phase one trade deal with China. That’s going to get them to buy more of our product. That’s what we want … to see that happen. Our farmers here in West Tennessee want to see that happen a great deal. We want to see more favorable and fair trading terms.

What we can’t tolerate is intellectual property theft, cyber theft that goes on day after day. We can’t tolerate the fact that they use heavily subsidized industries to come in and essentially cheat, to play unfairly. Look no further than Huawei. Huawei is the largest provider of 5G infrastructure in the world right now. It’s a 200,000-person strong company in China, backed by the balance sheet of China. They’ve got a huge amount of market strength. They’ve been barely competing for years. We’ve successfully blocked them from the United States, we’re not going to allow Huawei and it’s like to come into our infrastructure.

Can you imagine connecting our electric grid, connecting autonomous vehicles to a grid that a company like Huawei … and the Chinese Communist regime that runs that country are interconnected?

That’s a vulnerability that I won’t accept as the next United States senator from Tennessee. We need to build our own capacity and do the same as the supply chains that we’re dependent on right now. If you look at where antibiotics are manufactured; you look at our medical supplies. If you look at a lot of our high technology. We need to reduce our dependency on China, and China needs to change its behavior. China needs to behave like a market participant, not like an aggressor that it has been.”

Commercial Appeal: So, to follow up on that, and bringing jobs back. Are you comfortable with the subsidies that it may require to bring jobs back to United States in certain industries, particularly 5G, the ones you just talked about?

Hagerty: “The process has already begun of moving jobs back onshore. It began back in 2017 when President Trump got elected. It was the first wave of deregulation that took place that made America a better business climate. Then in 2017 as well, we went through the first major reform of our tax structure. America went from having the highest corporate tax rate in the world, 35% to a 20%, 21% corporate tax rate that’s at least competitive, and what happened?

Growth of the American economy took off. We saw America become the most attractive place in the world to grow and do business. I want to see that happen again. As we continue to look at ways to make our economy more attractive, we’re gonna see more capital investment move back this way.

And after President Trump imposed tariffs on China, I think corporate America woke up. I talk to CEOs, a lot. None of them are telling you that they’re thinking about dedicating new capital to China right now. In fact, most of them are thinking about ways to reduce their exposure to China to get out. We need to help them do that. We need to make America the most attractive place to invest capital in the world. I’ve got a plan on my website to do this.

We’re going to look at the corporate tax rate again, ways to accelerate further the mechanisms to incentivize more capital investment. We can do this, broadly speaking. Also, I’ll tell you this, the President can be very persuasive when he brings in leaders of certain industries that are strategic and he encourages them to come back home.

I intend to work with him to do that. That’s the reason that the President has already put me back on the White House economic recovery task force. I’ve gone back to work today to help America get back to work; to help Tennessee get back to work, and importantly, to get our supply chains back home.”

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