Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, discussed trade policy with Bloomberg TV’s Hans Nichols today at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Pritzker said that President Obama should be able to secure renewal of fast-track negotiating authority for trade agreements in spite of clashes over his immigration policy: “I think they are two separate issues; the reason it will pass is because the trade agreements are really important” for “continued economic growth in the United States.”
She also said: “I think that there’s enormous support on the Hill for TPA and growing.”
Penney Pritzker Says Time Right for Trade Promotion Authority
NICHOLS: What are we doing in Marrakech, Morocco?
PENNY PRITZKER: Well it’s great. We’re here for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which the United States is very involved in. We’re leaders in America in innovation and entrepreneurship. So we’ve brought together 4,000 entrepreneurs to learn more about what is the — what can governments be doing to support entrepreneurship, how can entrepreneurs learn from one another. It’s just really exciting.
NICHOLS: Now you’ve brought some ambassadors over here, some page ambassadors. What’s the goal of the program, and do we have any sense of how successful it is?
PENNY PRITZKER: So the president’s ambassadors for global entrepreneurship are 11 Americans who are very successful entrepreneurs. We’ve got Hamdi Ulukaya has joined us.
NICHOLS: From the yogurt family, all love him because we love yogurt.
PENNY PRITZKER: Chobani. Don’t we love his — we love his yogurt. And then we have Daphne Koller from Coursera, who not only runs a fabulous company which creates online educational tools for — that are come from our major universities, but has created a program on how to start a business that’s available, that’s — she’s announcing here available worldwide for free, really, really important. And then we’ve got Alexa Von Tobel from LearnVest who has a company that does financial planning for anyone.
NICHOLS: And the vice president was here earlier.
PENNY PRITZKER: Yes.
NICHOLS: The president didn’t come. Are Moroccans disappointed?
PENNY PRITZKER: Oh no, no, no, no. We have a huge government presence here, and the fact that the vice president was here he was so inspiring. I’m here. We have the head of the SCA. It’s terrific.
NICHOLS: Now we have some CEOS that are traveling with you, but we don’t have any of the big names, the GEs, the Honeywells that on some past commerce, commerce delegations have come. Are we to read anything into that?
PENNY PRITZKER: Oh God, no. This is all about entrepreneurship. This is about small and medium-sized businesses and their growth. And so we’re really focused on helping them. This is both educational, a lot of opportunity for people to share with one another. So it’s terrific. The turnout’s great.
NICHOLS: I can tell you’re quite enthusiastic. If you were an entrepreneur and you were investor and an entrepreneur, what would you invest in in Morocco?
PENNY PRITZKER: Oh well we just did a roundtable. And I met folks that have created all different kinds of companies. The one that’s coming to mind is actually a business in Gaza that I just learned about. And it’s a woman who’s got ride sharing in Gaza, so fabulous business, or a man who is from Morocco who’s taking cooking oil, used cooking oil, which is a huge factor here, and turning it into an energy product instead of it just going to waste turning it into energy. I’d invest in that. That’s a great idea.
NICHOLS: How important is trade to this region for global economic growth?
PENNY PRITZKER: Trade’s always important. And because we have a free trade agreement here in Morocco our trade has been growing dramatically, but there’s so much more that we can do.
NICHOLS: That free trade agreement was negotiated with trade promotional authority. Is the president going to get trade promotional authority for TTIP, for the deals that are out there? How is he going to get that? How is he going to convince Congress to give him TPA if at the very time he’s flouting Congress on immigration?
PENNY PRITZKER: I think he’s — I think that there’s enormous support on the Hill for TPA and growing.
NICHOLS: You don’t think the immigration debate will cloud into trade promotional authority?
PENNY PRITZKER: I think — I think they are two separate issues. And I think that trade promotion authority; the reason that there’s support for it and the reason that it will pass is because these trade agreements are really important. They’re important both economically for continued economic growth in the United States. We have five — we have 11.3 million Americans today that whose jobs depend on exports, depend on trade. I’ve met with 1,300 CEOs around this — our country. And they all want trade agreements. You know why? Either they want to sell their goods and services around the world or, two, they want to — it’s part of their supply chain.
NICHOLS: So can the president conclude these deals without trade promotional authority?
PENNY PRITZKER: Well I think he, yes. I think the deals are, the ongoing negotiation of these deals is going on. But I also think that the time is right for trade promotion authority.
NICHOLS: So it’s a two-part answer. He can do without, but it would be helpful to have TPA.
PENNY PRITZKER: Of course.
NICHOLS: And when we look over all the macroeconomic climate, of course there’s some reason to be hopeful about Morocco, some growth. When you look at the overall continent, the north/south access, are you concerned that global slowdown, fears about Ebola is going to stall the global recovery?
PENNY PRITZKER: Well first of all let’s take Ebola. Ebola is basically in three countries today, 21 million people in those three countries. The continent of Africa is 1.1 billion people. You have six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world here in Africa. There’s enormous opportunity and the governments really want to see more American business presence. So we’ve been very focused on trying to facilitate more American businesses coming here.
So for example, the commerce department we have doubled the number of outlets that we have for our foreign commercial service. We’re now in more countries so that we can help American businesses do business here. It’s a great opportunity.
NICHOLS: One final question. What did you learn about Morocco on this trip that you didn’t know before?
PENNY PRITZKER: You know what I do know? This — you know what? People are so friendly here. And the food is fabulous. And so I’m having a great time with a bunch of entrepreneurs who are trying to do business.
NICHOLS: Well okay. Let me do one more. Do you have to pay duty on all the shopping you’ve done here?
PENNY PRITZKER: Well I’m sure customs and border control will find me when I return.
NICHOLS: Okay. Well I think we’ve got a final wrap on there. We’ve had — enjoyed ourselves here. We want to thank the secretary again for joining us on Bloomberg Television.