The man who could be Donald Trump’s top health administrator dodged questions about the fate of the Affordable Care Act but said the U.S. political establishment must come to terms with the populist streak that’s reshaping the Western world.
U.S. Rep. Tom Price spoke at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition on Monday about how Trump’s victory, fueled in part by his vow to renegotiate free trade deals and support economic nationalism, is a wakeup call to those who took globalist forces for granted.
“America’s leadership role in the world has never been questioned inside the country – until now,” said the Roswell Republican, adding that U.S. leaders must learn to coexist with “a populist and protectionist streak not just in this nation but around the world.”
Price, viewed as a top contender for Health and Human Services Secretary, was a supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that is now in tatters. His comments came at a summit in Atlanta focused on the virtues of global trade and foreign aid.
Price told the crowd that educators, particularly in elementary and middle schools, have done a “very poor job” teaching students about the benefits of a strong U.S. role in international affairs. And he pointed to a Wall Street Journal story about China leading an Asian trade deal involving 16 nations.
“When we don’t engage in this way, we create a vacuum in this world,” he said, adding: “If not the United States, then it will be somebody else. We absolutely need to engage from a trade standpoint.”
His call to action, he said, was not intended to be a rebuke to Trump, whose “America First” campaign warned that free trade deals have devastated the U.S. economy. Price said Trump isn’t opposed to trade pacts but is “adamant about making sure the trade deals we reach are mutually beneficial to both countries, but especially the United States.”
After the speech, Price ducked repeated questions about his potential future in Trump’s Cabinet. But when asked how he could reconcile his views on trade with Trump’s attack on the “false song of globalism,” he said the incoming president "recognizes is that the U.S. is a major influence on the world and we ought to be a positive influence in the world.
“And we ought to be a positive influence from both a soft and a hard power standpoint," he said.
When pressed for more detail, he added: “As I mentioned on the stage, President-elect Trump supports trade. He just wants trade deals that are good and wise for the American people.”