Four Seasons Hotel
4:47 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John. Thank you for that warm introduction. Thank you all for that welcome.
It’s an honor to be here today at the 10th annual CEO Council of the Wall Street Journal. I know this has been an invigorating day and a half for all of you. And I’m humbled and honored to be able to speak to you today.
This is a gathering of leaders of consequence. It’s amazing to think that companies gathered here represent $2.5 trillion in annual revenue and millions of jobs across the United States of America. So we thank you for your leadership. We thank you for your investment in America and your belief in America’s future.
We know that communities large and small, across this country, depend on the companies that are represented here and the decisions you make each and every day. To the business leaders in this room, I’m grateful for the leadership that you provide and I bring greetings from a businessman-turned-President, who’s absolutely determined to make America’s economy great again. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States, President Donald Trump.
The President sent me here today to say thank you. Thank you for all that your companies mean to a growing American economy. But he also sent me here to give you an update on the progress of our administration. As we speak, the President is winging his way back from a 13-day journey across the Asia Pacific.
Throughout the past week and a half, the President has been busy forging stronger relationships with nations and key allies all across the region. He has in every real sense been about the business of restoring American leadership on the world stage; economically and diplomatically restoring that leadership and strengthening our economy along the way.
In fact, last Thursday, President Trump joined President Xi, in China, to announce a series of agreements between American and Chinese companies which would result in more than $250 billion in deals that will benefit the American economy.
But as the leaders in this room know well, strengthening America’s economy ultimately starts here at home. And President Trump has already taken decisive action — as you heard about from some of my counterparts who have been here earlier today — to strengthen the American economy. And I’m pleased to report to you on the progress that we’ve made.
Before we look forward — before we look at what we’ve accomplished, it’s important that we look back. I don’t need to tell all of you about the failed economic policies of the recent past. It seems like over the last eight years, Washington, D.C. was busy producing reams of red tape, restricting American energy, burdening American businesses, and American families with more government, more taxes, more regulation, and less freedom.
And we all know the results — the most powerful economy in the history of the world grew in the last eight years by only 1.8 percent. One company after another, heartbreakingly, not only laid off workers but many times announced plans to expand their operations not here, but around the world. Wages stagnated for hardworking American families. And worst of all, we saw a decline in the number of Americans who actually believed that the best days for America and the best opportunities for their children lie ahead. Make no mistake about it: Under President Donald Trump, those days are over.
Since the very first day of this administration, President Trump has fought tirelessly to give American businesses and American families the economic opportunities and freedom they need to prosper.
I’m pleased to report to you that since the advent of this administration, President Donald Trump has signed more laws rolling back federal red tape than any President in American history. This year alone, federal agencies have canceled or delayed 860 planned regulations, and we’ve kept new net regulatory costs at zero.
And next year, we’ve actually charged our Cabinet to achieve something that’s never been done before in modern American history. We’ve charged our Cabinet to achieve a net reduction in federal regulatory costs. The era of over-regulation is over in America.
At the same time, our administration has been busy unleashing American energy. As you all well know, affordable and abundant energy is the lifeblood of American business. And President Trump has been committed to putting into practice an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will unlock all of America’s boundless natural resources.
In one of his first acts in office, President Trump approved the Keystone and Dakota pipelines. We’re expanding access to offshore drilling. And last month, we announced that we’ll repeal the so-called Clean Power Plan that’s put such an enormous burden on job creators and businesses and the cost of energy in this country.
When it comes to international trade, President Trump has announced to the world in the recent days and announced throughout this administration that he’ll continue to put America First. Last week in Vietnam, the President laid out with specificity his vision for trade in this administration that would be both free and fair.
As the President said in his words, the United States will “no longer enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible.” Which is why earlier this year, the President made the decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Instead, as the President said, America will pursue bilateral trade agreements in his words, “rooted in the principles of fairness and reciprocity.” And as the President made clear, “we expect that markets will be open to an equal degree on both sides, and that private industry — not government planners — will direct investment.”
In fact, earlier this year, the President directed me to work with my counterpart in Japan, Deputy Prime Minister Aso, to initiate a Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue. It’s already resulted in the lessening of market access barriers between the United States and Japan, and it is laying the foundation for a free trade agreement between the United States and our great ally, Japan.
And lastly, back here at home, President Trump has been busy appointing strict constructions to our federal courts at every level — men and women who will uphold the Constitution, faithfully apply the laws as written, and ensure the administrative state stays within its proper roles. Most notable amount of those appointments is the newest justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
So it’s about regulatory reform. It’s about unleashing American energy. It’s about bilateral trade, and it’s about the rule of law. That’s the leadership President Trump has been providing so far in the early days of this administration. But as I said, we’re just getting started.
What is really remarkable though, is that for the progress that we have made since that day, January 20th, America’s economy and confidence in America is rebounding in ways that are benefiting American workers and American growth.
Businesses from the outset of this administration, like those represented in this room, have already created 1.5 million new jobs, including 261,000 jobs created by businesses large and small in the month of October.
Employer confidence is soaring all across America, especially in the vital area of manufacturing, in the life of this country.
And of course, the stock market is setting new records nearly every week. And since the outset of this administration, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has actually increased 28 percent, creating $5.5 trillion in new wealth — benefitting pensions, retirement, and savings accounts for tens of millions of Americans.
As the President likes to say though, “It’s all about growth.” And today, I’m pleased to report to you that the economy has grown by at least 3 percentage points for the past two quarters. And the New York Fed expects it to grow even faster before the year is out.
In a word, the America economy has real momentum as a result of the policies and the leadership of President Donald Trump. But as I said before, we’re just getting started.
To keep this momentum going, the President and I believe, there’s one thing more we must do before the end of this year. And with President Trump’s leadership, and strong support in the Congress of the United States, we’re going to cut taxes across the board for working families and businesses large and small.
Now, I’m not here today to endorse any particular bill moving out of the House and the Senate. You heard a lot of details from Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, Gary Cohn — I know they’ve already given you detailed updates on that.
As you well know, the House of Representatives is set to vote on their tax cut bill later this week. The President will be traveling to Capitol Hill to speak to members of the House Republican Conference on this Thursday. And we may well expect a vote that day. The Senate will vote on their bill in the week after Thanksgiving. We are making steady progress toward delivering historic tax relief for the American people.
But as you heard from Leader McConnell and from the leaders in our administration, we’ve been hand in hand with leaders in both chambers of Congress to move forward on the President’s vision for tax reform.
But let me take a step back for just a second and talk about tax cuts in the context of American leadership. Over the last year as Vice President, I’ve traveled all across this country. Every place I visited, I’ve talked to job creators and working families about the enormous burden that our tax code places on their success and on growth.
And the truth is the tax code today takes too much of the American people’s hard-earned money. It makes it harder for companies, large and small, to grow. And the tax code is so complex, it seems mainly to benefit the lucky few — the wealthy, the well-connected who can afford to hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers here in our nation’s capital.
The simple truth is our tax code has been a barrier of growth. And as a result, American families and American business have been falling behind.
Today, it’s amazing to think: Taxpayers spend over 6 billion hours every year dealing with their taxes, and it costs our economy $262 billion every year in compliance. That’s more than $800 for every man, woman, and child in America just to figure out what you owe the federal government.
But it’s not just the complexity of our tax code that hurts working families, it’s the burden of high taxes that are imposed on our businesses, too.
Nearly 30 years ago, it’s amazing to think, America had one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the developed world. It spurred an era of soaring income and jobs and growth.
But today, America has fallen behind our competitors when it comes to corporate taxes and business taxes. Our corporate tax rate is now the highest in the developed world. And even worse, our outdated system of worldwide taxation penalizes businesses for being headquartered in America by taxing every dollar they earn overseas.
Now, I have no doubt that all the great Americans in this room want to expand your companies here in America first, to create more jobs in the communities in this country where you call home, to raise the wages of millions of Americans that you employ. But the truth is that too many American businesses have found it easier in recent years to close factories and move jobs overseas than to find a way to figure out how to grow here.
Well, those days are over.
The truth is too many companies in the last 10 to 15 years have faced that terrible choice between corporate profits and country. And working families have felt the pain in the form of hollowed-out communities, lost jobs, lower wages, and less hope.
And I know there’s pain involved. Just because you sit in the CEO suite doesn’t mean you’re not a real person who lives in the neighborhood, who knows people. I’ll never forget the day in Muncie, Indiana I was at the Rotary Club. And the owner of a third-generation business stood before his fellow Rotarians with tears in his eyes and announced that he was moving all of his manufacturing over to the East Coast of China just to keep his business doors open.
The truth is there were a lot of factors to that, but our tax code, our high corporate taxes was one of the main culprits. So those days of taxes driving jobs out of America are about to end. As I said before, we’ve fallen behind in tax policy and its impact on America.
And President Trump is absolutely committed to advancing tax cuts and tax reform along the following outline. First, we’re going to cut taxes for working families in real and meaningful ways and let people have more money in their pockets.
Secondly, we’re going to restore simplicity and fairness to the tax code, so that the American people have the opportunity to file their taxes on their own.
And lastly, we’re going to make our economy competitive again by making a corporate tax rate low and competitive on a global stage and transforming the way we tax business income to make American businesses competitive.
So let me take each one of those elements of the President’s vision one by one. First, as I mentioned, the President is committed to cutting taxes for working families. He talks about this tax cut bill being a “middle-class miracle.” And I promise you, as the legislation continues to move through the House and Senate, our focus is going to be on making sure that the majority of the resources here benefit the paychecks and benefit the pocketbooks of working families across America by lowering the marginal tax rates, by increasing and doubling the standard exemption, by increasing and improving the per-child tax credit. These are all elements of ensuring that middle-class Americans, working families will benefit and prosper as a result of this tax relief.
Let me also say with today’s headlines that the President and I welcome word that the Senate Finance Committee will include the repeal of the individual mandate of Obamacare in the Senate tax cut bill as it moves forward in that chamber.
As you all know, the President had urged that we include a full repeal of the Obamacare tax at the center of this tax reform. This would repeal the mandate that’s at the heart of Obamacare. But make no mistake about it, this would also be a middle-class tax cut.
As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday in their left column, more than one in three households that paid the Obamacare tax, the mandate tax in 2015, earned less than $25,000 a year. And more than 90 percent made less than $75,000 a year, according to IRS data.
The truth is by eliminating the Obamacare mandate tax, we will pass and enact real tax relief for working families all across America, and we will end the era that began seven long years ago where the federal government has the taxing power to order every American to buy insurance — whether they want it, or need it, or not.
So this is all about benefits for working families. But secondly, we’re going to restore simplicity and fairness to the tax code. The goal is that Americans will be able to file their taxes — at least nine out of 10 Americans will be able to file their taxes on a single sheet of paper.
The truth is that average Americans should not have to go out and hire the accountants and the lawyers that a business has to hire just to figure out what they owe. So we’re going to work for tax simplification, and we’re going to lift an enormous burden off the American economy.
And make no mistake about it, when you think about the sheer cost in time and resources that Americans spend filling out their taxes, that opportunity cost robs real energy from our economy. And so by simplifying the tax code, we’re going to leave more money in the pockets of the American people and less time at a kitchen table over a calculator, anxiously computing late into the evening.
Finally, we’re going to make our economy competitive again by cutting the corporate tax rate and fundamentally transforming the way that we tax businesses in America.
Now, when it comes to economic growth, I want to tell you the President is very passionate about this last issue. If you take nothing else from my message today, I want you to take the fact that this is going to be a middle-class tax cut. We’re going to simplify the tax code. And without apology, we’re going to fight to make American businesses more competitive by lowering the business tax rate.
We’re going to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent — and not a penny more. The simple fact is — and you may have heard this from some of my counterparts — that President Trump has made it clear, he agreed on the 20 percent number, and that’s it. Truth is that when we get to 20 percent, we’ll go from one of the highest rates in the developed world to below the average in the industrialized world. And the President is determined to dig in for it.
We’re also going to make sure that small businesses, which are the engine of the American economy in so many ways, get the same tax relief as corporations like you. We’re going to cut the pass-through tax rate to 25 percent, which will be the lowest for subchapter S, small businesses, or LLCs, as they’re known — for small businesses, it will be the lowest tax rate since 1931.
We’re also going to replace the outdated system of worldwide taxation with a territorial system, so only the money that’s earned in America is taxed in America. And we’re going to let businesses fully and immediately write off the cost of new equipment and other capital investments because all companies need to grow and to grow fast.
And finally, we’re going to cut taxes on the trillions of dollars that many of your companies have locked overseas so you can bring those dollars back here to America to invest in American growth, American jobs, and America’s future.
So rest assured that President Trump is committed to middle-class tax relief and tax reform and simplification. But we also believe this is all about competitiveness, and we’re absolutely determined to work with the leaders in the House and the Senate to ensure that America’s business taxes put each one of you in a competitive position to grow jobs here in the United States of America and not have to make the choice that businesses have faced with heartbreak in years past.
We truly believe that tax cuts for businesses, for individuals are going to unleash a tidal wave of growth. With the American people having more money in their pockets, American consumers are going to have more dollars to spend. With more resources in your businesses, we believe we’ll see a wave of capital investment, creating millions of jobs, spurring an era of innovation.
And we truly do believe, as you’ve heard from Dr. Kevin Hassett and others today, we truly do believe that by lowering business taxes in America, that we will set the stage for wages to rise for working Americans all across this country.
Earlier today, Dr. Hassett, I know, spoke of the work that he’s done in this area. As he’s brilliantly showed in recent published work, our tax cut for American businesses we believe will boost wages for American workers. In fact, once these tax — go fully into effect, we believe the typical American household can actually expect an extra $4,000 in their pockets every year at least.
Now, previous administrations in both political parties have supported corporate tax cuts for exactly the same reason — because it is a consensus view — the degree of the impact has always been debated — but it has been a consensus view that lowering corporate taxes is the most effective way to move that stubborn number of wage increases in this country, and we’re going to be fighting and fighting hard for it.
The truth is that economists from across the ideological spectrum have long agreed that cutting taxes on businesses will boost wages for workers. And President Trump and I agree.
As the United States’ competitors have already proven, low business taxes mean bigger paychecks for workers. In the last year alone, the 10 developed countries with the lowest corporate tax rates experienced a wage growth of nearly 4 percent. The 10 countries with the highest tax rates, including the United States, had wage growth clocked in at a mere half a percentage point.
Men and women, those are hard numbers. Those are real numbers. And the reality is that we truly believe that by lowering business taxes in America, each and every one of you is going to invest in your most precious asset the most, that is your people — all the hardworking people that make your companies successful.
It’s happened in other countries. It’s happened in the past. It’s going to happen again in the United States of America.
And we need all of you to tell this story. The truth is each and every one of you needs to tell the story about what business taxes mean to the people who work for your companies and who work all across this economy.
And the truth is I want to thank the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal for doing the job that they’ve done to illuminate this reality.
But as I close I really do want to finish with a challenge to each and everyone one of you. We have a historic opportunity to renew sustained American growth at 3 percent or more, benefitting the American economy, American workers, and American businesses for generations, but we need your help.
President Trump and I need your full and unwavering support to pass tax cuts and tax reform and to do so this year.
You’re here today as a member of this council because you’re uniquely influential. You’re men and women who lead companies of enormous consequence in our economy, in the communities, in the country, and in the halls of government. So I want to encourage you to do a few things before you leave town and as soon as you leave town.
Number one, sit down with your employees, your suppliers, other business leaders in your community and let them know what you’ve heard here today. If you share our conviction that now is the time for historic tax relief for the American people, and that it’s going to make a real difference in the ability for your companies to grow, I want you to go tell somebody, especially the people that work for your, especially the people that supply your company, your vendors and your suppliers.
And I also want to encourage you to take the opportunity to speak to the people that represent all those people that work for you and let them know that now is the time for us to do all that we can to set politics aside and embrace this historic opportunity to pass meaningful tax cuts and tax reform for the American people.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, but we’re not going to get it done unless we get it done together.
And the truth is that tax cuts have been throughout our history a bipartisan affair. When John F. Kennedy reduced taxes and spoke about a “rising tide lifting all boats,” it was bipartisan. It was bipartisan tax relief that passed.
When Ronald Reagan did the same in 1980, Republicans and many Democrats came together to support an effort to let the American people keep more of what they earn to make America more competitive.
And the truth is that we’ve got a historic opportunity, but I want to challenge each and everyone one of the leaders in this room to lead — lead on this issue. And do it in days, not weeks — because I have to tell you we’ve got a tremendous opportunity in front of us that with your help and with your support, with the strong leadership of President Donald Trump, and with the support of the men and women who represent the American people in the Congress of the United States, I truly do believe that we can pass historic tax relief in the Congress of the United States, and we can pass it this year.
But let me close just by saying it’s an honor to be with all of you. I’m very aware of the stature of the men and women in this room and the impact that you have on the life of this country, and the impact that you have on millions of hardworking Americans who work in the companies that you lead. And I’m honored to be with all of you today and humbled by it.
I also want to say to each one of you that I know that you’re great employers. You create great jobs in America. But I also want to say that I’m aware that you’re great corporate citizens. I know that it would be impossible to go into the communities where your companies employ Americans and not see the marquis and the banner of your company on virtually every worthy cause in town. Hard to go to a Little League game and not see the name of your company hung over the back fence outside, past the outfielders. And just know the President and I appreciate the generosity of each one of these companies as corporate citizens.
But it’s in that last word that I just want to challenge you — you’re such great corporate citizens, I encourage you to maybe exercise the citizenship in one more renewed way in the next month, and that is step up as corporate citizens to help us communicate past the politics of this town how important it is that we seize this opportunity to bring real tax cuts to the middle class in this country, to bring real tax reform and simplification to the American people, and that we bring about a transformational reform of America’s business taxes to unleash the boundless energy of the American economy.
And let me say with confidence that you all will do that, with confidence in the leadership of President Donald Trump and in all those that represent us in the Congress of the United States, I say I know we will pass the largest tax cut in American history, and we’ll pass it this year.
Let’s get to work. Thanks, everybody. God bless you and God bless the United States. (Applause.)
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you for being here. You’ve kindly agreed to take a few questions. You may or may not regret that decision later. (Laughter.) But we appreciate it.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You bet. Good to see you.
Q Thank you. So as you said, as we speak, the President is winging his way back from Asia. So let me start there. And as you also suggested, in his work in Asia, the President annunciated I think a paradigm shift in trade, essentially no more big multilateral deals. We’re going to focus on bilateral deals that are better for the U.S.
But let me pose the problem as I can see with that, which is that (inaudible) —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: One of the earlier conversations the President and I had when I joined the campaign was precisely on the issue of trade. I come from a manufacturing state and an agriculture state, and the President spoke to me about a vision for trade that is really built on arms-length relationships with countries around the world.
President Trump believes in trade. He believes in, as he says, free and fair trade. But as he said to me then, and he said over the course of his travels this last week, the President just simply believes that these multilateral deals that tie many nations together ultimately result in the United States losing leverage for the ability to hold people accountable for the commitments that they make in the trade arrangements.
And he believes that we’ll be able to advance the interests of our country and the countries that we’re trading with more effectively if we simply have arms-length relationships.
It’s one of the reasons why he initiated the economic dialogue with Japan that Deputy Prime Minister Aso and I have been working very diligently on with meetings in Japan and here in Washington, D.C.
And, Jerry, I would tell you that I do believe that in talking with leaders around the world, there’s been a great deal of enthusiasm once they realize that President Trump when he said America First, he didn’t mean America alone. He just simply meant that he wanted to get back to win-win relationships.
And to see the magnitude of trade deficits that we have with many countries around the world, I can tell you every bilateral meeting we’ve ever had with a country that we enjoy a trade deficit with, it’s one of the first things the President talks about because he thinks trade relationships ought to — in a very real sense — be defined by it being a win for both parties.
And so I think that there has been great enthusiasm among countries, and I think you’re going to see this administration work very vigorously to expand access to world markets to improve existing trade relationships that we have. But it’s all with a focus on making sure that American workers and American businesses are winning every bit as much as companies and individuals in other countries.
Q But when the other 11 countries that were in the Trans-Pacific Partnership hang together as they did this week and say, we’re moving on, is that a train leaving with us left behind?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we don’t think so. This is the most powerful economy in the history of the world. We’re in the midst of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. We truly believe — the President is very passionate about this, Jerry — that the United States of America has not pressed our interests on behalf of American workers and American businesses enough in recent years.
I’ve heard it many times in private, but the President said it very much in public this week when he was in China. He said, I don’t blame China for a bad trade deal. He blamed the policymakers in the United States who have allowed that kind of relationship to evolve.
So I think the honesty of that kind of dialogue and the strength of the American economy puts us in a position to move toward what the President envisions, which I think is bilateral win-win trade relationships that will be good for both the countries in the deal.
Q Let me turn to your sales pitch on the tax bill, tax reform. And note what we did a national poll in September in which only 16 percent of the people that we surveyed said they favored cutting corporate taxes, and 37 percent said businesses were paying less than their fair share of taxes. Which would suggest you got a ways to go yet to make the sale about a combination of a corporate tax cut and an individual tax cut. Can you do that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we can. I have to tell you as I travel around the country, people know the time has come to cut taxes and to reform our tax code.
I participated by telephone today in a roundtable in Trenton, New Jersey. I’ve traveled around the country meeting with businesses large and small, and people get it. They understand, as I tried to articulate today, as you all know in your businesses what a barrier our tax code has been to growth and to jobs.
But make no mistake about it, we need business leaders in this country to go tell that story, too. We need you to go down to the cafeteria at your company and hold a town hall of your own and tell people about the impact that lowering business taxes is going to have on the ability for your company to grow, to create more jobs, and particularly as Dr. Hassett has pointed out, we really believe that there is a direct relationship between lower business taxes and higher wages for working Americans.
And so communicating that message, which I think we have had much success in doing, is going to be key to moving this forward.
Q And are you going to have 52 Senate votes going forward? Or is this problem in Alabama going to cost you one of those before you get to the end of this road?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We believe we’ll have the votes. We believe that we’re making steady progress in the United States Senate and in the House of Representatives, and that we’ll have the votes. But we’re taking nothing for granted.
And let me also say that regardless of the outcome in an upcoming special election, the American people in both political parties I believe know that we need tax relief. They know the time has come for tax cuts. They know that American businesses are operating under an uncompetitive tax code. And so we are very sincere about reaching out to men and women in both political parties.
The President and I have sat down with Democrat members of the House, of the Senate. We continue to reach out in a constructive way. In this town that is so divided, and it seems like it’s more divided than it’s ever been, we truly believe that this is a real opportunity for the Congress to come together in unique ways and embrace the kind of tax relief that will put more money in the pockets of working Americans. It will simplify and lift the burden of the tax code and will unleash the boundless energy of American free enterprise to benefit American workers and the American economy for generations to come. So we’ll keep working it.
And with your help and with God’s help, and with President Donald Trump in the White House, I think we’re going to get it done.
Q Let me take advantage of your presence here to ask about one subject that hasn’t come up yet, but that I think is in the backs at least of everybody’s mind, which is North Korea. The rhetoric can get a little confusing sometimes. We’ve heard talk of raining fire down on the North Koreans if they don’t change their course, but we’ve also heard talk about the virtue of diplomacy and a willingness to meet with North Koreans, including the supreme leader of North Korea. Is there an opening here for diplomacy to solve the North Korean nuclear program or not?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump sent me to the region earlier this year. And he made very clear on this trip what our policy is, and that is that first and foremost, the era of strategic patience is over. Strategic patience itself, Jerry, has been a historically failed policy. One administration after another in both political parties have entered into an agreement with North Korea, given them time. North Korea breaks their word, moves forward and continues to develop a nuclear ballistic missiles program.
President Trump made it clear early in this administration, as he made clear on this trip, that’s over; and that we’re absolutely committed to resolving this issue. All options are on the table, and the President has made that clear. But we continue to hope and we continue to work to resolve this issue peaceably by brining economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.
And largely owing to the President’s energetic engagement with leaders in the region, including President Xi, we believe that we’ve isolated North Korea economically and diplomatically in ways that has never occurred before. China has taken action, Jerry, as you know that they’ve never taken before. But we believe they need to do more. Other countries in the region need to do more.
But President Trump is absolutely committed to achieve what is the consensus objective of the world community, and that is that North Korea would abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile program. And that we would have nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. That is the goal.
We’ll continue to drive all of our allies in the region to assist us in achieving that by peaceable means. But that strategic patience and that waiting game is over, and the President’s message, I think, this week was very consistent.
Q That is the goal. Some people wonder whether denuclearization is a realistic goal at this point. And it raises the question of, why not simply, adopt a policy of containing and deterring the North Koreans? It worked with the Soviet Union for half a century and ultimately that regime fell, peaceably. Is that not a viable strategy?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think President Trump’s speech in South Korea was historic and meaningful. It was meaningful because he spoke as much about the people of North Korea as he spoke about the strategic issues that we face.
I was deeply moved as the President talked about the differences — even the nighttime vision from outer space — to see one country in virtual darkness and another country lit by prosperity and freedom.
But then to literally speak directly to the leader of North Korea from that podium and to communicate to them that it’s in the interest of their people and the interest of their future to abandon nuclear and ballistic missiles and to join the family of nations to me was — I thought it was inspiring. And it continues to be talked about across the region, as such.
So I really believe that in the interest of the people of North Korea and in the interest of the national security of the United States of America, President Trump is going to remain determined to achieve the objective that we would one day have a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and allow for the peaceable progress of the people of North and South Korea to move forward into history.
Q Mr. Vice President, let me ask you one final question. We, earlier today, canvassed this group and asked them for questions that I might pose to you. And there is one here that I did want to ask you, because I think it reflects some of the concerns that people have about the way things work in this town right now.
This person said, “I voted for Trump 12 months ago. I would vote for him today. I believe our system needs to be shaken up a little, but it’s painful to watch at times. Being a sensible Midwesterner,” — that’s you — “how do you put up with all the chaos and the periodic silliness?” (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I couldn’t be more proud to be Vice President for President Donald Trump. Now, I want to stipulate, I’m very fond of him — we’ve become very good friends.
But I have to tell you, having spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., having spent four years as a governor, having seen the way this city was calcified, having seen the capacity of this city to always change the subject when something comes up that actually could benefit the American people and the American economy. Right? This is a city that always comes up with something else to talk about when we get to tax cuts. It’s the reason why it never happens, but every generation or so.
And I really do believe that the American people in their wisdom elected the right man at the right time to be President of the United States. He’s got broad shoulders. He’s got high energy. I expect there’s probably not a man or woman in this room sitting in a CEO suite whose team doesn’t have the same feeling about you all from time to time. Am I right?
The one thing — I’ll tell you a story about — can I just tell you one anecdote before I go?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So when we got the call about being considered for this job, I’d only met the President twice. It was just a handshake once in New York. And then once at Mar-a-Lago, he came out and said hello when we were having dinner there.
So when it came time for us to considered for this job, we said we were honored but we never expected that we would be asked. But if we were ever to be asked, I said, there’s two things I want to know before I would be able to answer that question. I was governor of Indiana and I loved my job. I knew I could make a real difference where I was.
But I said, two things I’d need to know: Number one — and the bosses in the room will like this — I said, number one, I’d like to know the job description. Because there’s only one person that writes it and it’s written every four to eight year. Right?
And the second thing I said is, we need to know them as a family, to know who they are because we really — we don’t know them. And I said, to know the Pences is to know a family. And I immediately, Jerry, said, now I know none of that’s possible.
This was late June. I said, we wouldn’t be able to spend the kind of time together that we could get to know each other. It was two days later, I got a call back that said, not only did the candidate like your response, but he wanted to invite you to spend Fourth of July weekend at Bedminster with him and bring your whole family. And his family is going to be there.
So we made our way out there. We arrived on a Friday night — now this is this the anecdote I wanted to share.
So we went to the clubhouse — little table we were sitting over in a corner. My wife and my daughter were with me. And Dave has been running Bedminster since the President bought it a number of years ago and turned it into a beautiful resort. And he walked over to the table and he said to me, I just wanted to check and make sure everything is okay and you guys have what you need.
I said, it’s wonderful, we’re very humbled to be here. I said, don’t worry about us, we’re not on the schedule until tomorrow morning. And Dave looked at me and he said, well you know how he is. And I said, I have no idea whatsoever. (Laughter.) I said, that’s really why I’m here.
And he looked at me and he said with a warm smile, he said, well he’s just going to want sure everything is right. He said, he’s called a couple times from the car just to make sure everything is squared away.
Now, there were two things in that moment that I’ve seen every single day serving shoulder-to-shoulder with President Donald Trump. Number one is he has high standards. He does — things have to be right. I mean to tell you, I’ve spoken to the President every day during this trip with few exceptions, and every day he’s talked to me about tax cuts. He’s totally focused on — he’s on the international stage 13 days, but he’s totally focused on moving an agenda forward for the American people. And he wants to get it done and he wants to get it done right.
And that kind of focus is what makes for successful CEOs like the men and women in this room.
But the other thing I saw was another quality of leadership. Because when Dave said to me, he’s going to want to make sure things are right, he said it with a smile.
I expect — maybe with a few exceptions in this room — the CEOs understand there’s two great qualities of leaders. Number one, you’ve got to have vision, you’ve got to have standards. Number two, you got to be able to inspire people to want to work for you. Right?
And that’s the kind of leader President Trump is. Each and every day — I have to tell you, — I see that energy, I see that vision, I see that determination, and I just know with confidence in my heart that he’s the right man at the right time to lead this country back.
And as we always say, I’m absolutely confident that seven years from now, we’ll look back and say, it was President Donald Trump who led a tremendous renewal of the American spirit. We made America safe again. We made America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase, we’ll be able to say we made America great again. I really believe it.
Q Mr. Vice President, thank you for sharing with us. You were kind to do it. We meet every year about this time, in this room. So you can come back anytime you want. We appreciated it very much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. It’s an honor. (Applause.)
5:33 P.M. EST