BY DEBBIE PAGE
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry addressed the Mooresville-South Iredell Developer’s Council on Tuesday afternoon at Langtree Plantation, updating members and guests on the latest work in Congress that affects the area.
“It is great to be in Iredell County,” he said, acknowledging the county and city leaders in the audience.
McHenry said that Iredell County is a special place in the region because of the partnerships and open communications between public and private entities that spur progress and economic development for the benefit of residents.
The 10th District, now represented by McHenry, will again include all but a small section of southeastern Iredell County (affecting about 400 residents) as of January 2021 because of court-mandated Congressional redistricting, the fourth such redrawing of districts during McHenry’s eight terms in the U.S. House.
Accusations of gerrymandering have gone on for more than 200 years and will likely continue, McHenry noted.
Washington is now dealing with the “dumpster fire” of impeachment that will consume the Senate for up to a month, McHenry said, noting that the trial of President Trump is “a rare moment in history,” only the third time to ever happen.
The previous two presidents impeached by the U.S. House were Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, each of whom were acquitted. The Constitution requires 67 votes to convict.
McHenry predicted the Senate would apply the same rules as it used in Clinton’s impeachment. “This process is one we must wrestle with. The constraints of our Constitution and laws are as relevant as they were 50, 100, 200 years ago.”
“We’ll get through this process, and whether or not you like the outcome is actually, quite frankly, like gerrymandering. If your side wins, you think it’s good; if your side loses, you think it’s bad. That is where we are in the nature of our politics.”
TRADE MINDSET POLICY CHANGES
McHenry then moved to a discussion of trade policy. “Over the last 40 years, American trade policy was trying to help develop the rest of the world,” he said. “This president has a very different mindset.”
Acknowledging that people may object to the way Trump talks about things, McHenry said that if people “separate the rhetoric from the reality of the actual negotiation and the outcome of the negotiation, what we have before us is a mindset shift in Washington about trade policy.”
“What was good for the world and to develop the world was the mindset for the 40 years of American foreign policy, how we develop friends and neighbors and allies and lure them to our economy.”
“Now our mindset is what is better for the American economy and therefore the global economy.”
McHenry is comfortable with this new trade philosophy because of the loss of the furniture and textile industries in western North Carolina “due to bad trade agreements — not the fact that we opened markets but that we didn’t have a level playing field.”
USMCA AND CHINA TRADE AGREEMENTS
The president renegotiated NAFTA, which McHenry was initially not a fan of because it was such a weak agreement that harmed American businesses and workers. However, after extensive negotiations with Canada and Mexico, Trump got a strong deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), through Congress last week.
However, in terms of the effect on the economy, McHenry said that the USMCA agreement “was small compared to the whale, which is China.”
The Phase One U.S. – China Agreement signed on January 15 “is a fantastic thing and very good for the American people and will open opportunities.”
McHenry said that “the Chinese economy is 10 times the size it was when we opened up trade relations with them 20 years ago. We have not had 10 times growth in the United States over the last 20 years.”
“They are a rising power. They are substantially larger than when we negotiated with them or when Nixon opened up international relations with the communist regime of China.”
“What we have now is a renegotiated Phase One trade agreement. I was with the president in the White House when he signed it with the number two of the Chinese government. That will have a substantial impact for us for the next 20, 30, 50 years.”
Though acknowledging the “choppiness” of trade policy and tariffs made buying some things recently challenging, McHenry said, “At the end of the day, we have to have a different view of China. We know of their aggression, building islands in the South China Sea.”
“We know their aggressiveness in cyber threats and data breaches. They have an aggressive foreign policy targeting the United States and United States assets globally. We have to have a different mindset there.”
McHenry also noted China’s dedication to building its economy. Referencing a statistic from “The Economist” magazine, McHenry note that “from 2011 to 2014, China used more cement than the United States did in the fullness of the 20th century.”
“When this president or when a governmental or business leader says ‘we have to get tough, we have to get smart on how we counter this rise of China,’ think of that statistic,” McHenry warned.
“We have to think about our economic opportunities here. That means energy policy, that means transportation policy, it means the way we educate the next generation.”
“If we are smart about those three things, the economic growth we have seen over last decade in the United States after our recovery from the great recession, we have to continue this momentum for the next 20, 30 50 years. Our competition internationally is China.”
Answering a question about the Chinese theft of intellectual property, McHenry said that problem was the purview of the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is not a member and which has been more focused on impeachment rather than policy making.
Though the first phase of the China agreement addresses some aspects of protecting intellectual property, McHenry said, “we are working toward a larger solution. We’ve got good progress, but we need to do more work to protect our intellectual property from China” in phase two.
COMMUNITY BANK REGULATORY RELIEF
McHenry is the ranking member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, which has made some changes to help small banks. “We have had a significant reform of the regulatory process for community banks, regional banks and small banks.”
“As a result of our regulatory relief from two years ago, we have a new bank that is headquartered in Charlotte,” he added. “It means that regional banks can now compete with big banks in a way they couldn’t because of Dodd-Frank.”
“That is a very good thing for our region and jobs in our region. The economic benefit to community banks enables us to have more options and keep community banks healthy and free and clear from mergers and acquisitions,” he said. “That type of consumer choice is a very good thing for our economy.”
McHenry, referencing the small lawn mowing business his father started in their backyard with a borrowed mower and a pickup truck, said he thinks of the American Dream of the small business owner as he crafts policies that affect small business.
“I don’t think of the next Facebook or artificial intelligence. I think of a guy in a truck, a gal starting a coffee shop. That type of motivation, that kind of economic creativity is what we need more of in this country.”
“That’s entrepreneurship. That means that we have to have all the other actions in our economy keying to that type of reasonable risk-taking that happens every day in our society and that many of you are a part of.”
McHenry closed by acknowledging the deep political divisions in the country.
“We are a divided country, and everything has become political,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be fully political every minute of our lives.”
To survive with his sanity in his elective office, McHenry said, “I realized that not everything is political and that I can go about my work for you and on North Carolina’s behalf and still have a happy, healthy life.”
“I would recommend to you to read your news, not watch it, and engage with the people you most fundamentally disagree with, not about superficial things but about things that matter, and try to find some commonality.”
“Facts matter, but our opinion about those facts, how we achieve some better outcomes, it’s incumbent upon us to actually have those conversations where we can build consensus.”
“If we do those two things, read our news and engage with others, I think we will have a better outcome for our country. Based on the nature of our government, if the people are divided, the government will be divided. That is just the nature of it.”
“If we have a unified voice on certain things, we can get larger issues resolved,” McHenry concluded.
McHenry will face Republican challengers David Johnson and Ralf Walters in the March 3 primary election. The primary winner will face Democratic challenger David Parker in the November election.