WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on Thursday told several business groups that she has “grave concerns” about the pending 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, and also pledged to simplify and reform the tax code, roll back regulations and cut government spending if elected.
Fiorina, the former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard who is well behind front-runners Donald Trump and a rising Ted Cruz in the Republican race, participated in a teleforum and addressed questions posed by members of the National Retail Federation, National Association of Manufacturers, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Associated General Contractors, the Business-Industry Political Action Committee and the National Federation of Independent Business.
She outlined her “blueprint” for “taking back the country” to the business executives, touting her top priority of reducing the current 73,000-page tax code to just three pages while also pledging to cut taxes for businesses and individuals. Fiorina supports a “low” flat tax for businesses and individuals to grow the economy, according to a fact sheet on her Web site.
Her plan includes rolling back what she called a “thicket” of regulations, including the Affordable Care Act, National Labor Relations Board rules and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. She has pledged to sign legislation that would require Congress to approve all regulations with an economic impact of over $100 million annually.
She said the country needs to reduce the national debt of $18 trillion by growing the economy and cutting spending. To that end, she told business executives she would move all federal agencies to “zero-based budgeting,” which she explained on her Web site would be making every agency “justify every dollar that they spend.”
Fiorina supports legislation that would require “every agency to provide a description of their activities, as well as a summary of the cost-effectiveness and efficiency to you, the taxpayer,” according to her plan.
One key issue important to the groups is the TPP agreement, involving the U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand. The pact, encompassing 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, seeks to eliminate import duties, strengthen labor and environmental provisions, ease the flow of cross-border trade and strengthen intellectual property protections.
A business executive asked Fiorina how she would protect small businesses from foreign competition, particularly contractors, suppliers and equipment manufacturers that are subsidized by foreign governments, if TPP is enacted.
“I have grave concerns about TPP,” Fiorina said. “Although generally speaking I am a believer in free and fair trade because I know when trade is free and fair we win because we have the most competitive businesses in world.”
Fiorina said TPP is a “highly complex” pact that was negotiated in secret over 18 months with “scores and scores of nations.”
“I don’t have much faith in a complicated agreement that was negotiated in secret,” Fiorina said. “In fact, in general bilateral trade agreements are far more advantageous to our nation than multilateral trade agreements.”
The Obama administration released the full text of TPP, comprised of thousands of pages, in November.
“This is an example of why we need someone in the White House who actually understands how the economy is working and actually understand the barrier that you are up against,” she said, adding that when the U.S. allows foreign companies to “play in our economy with a different set of rules…we are damaging our competitiveness.”
Fiorina also took China to task, arguing that it has not lived up to its trade commitments in the World Trade Organization.
“We have a lot of trading partners with whom we have sealed agreements, who haven’t lived up to their agreements. China is the obvious example of this,” she said.
She said her blueprint, which is focused on simplifying the tax code, would in and of itself make U.S. companies more competitive.
“Simplicity favors small-business creation, not just big-business dominance,” she said. “It’s also why we need to lower the tax rate on business and we need to make sure that we have the lowest energy costs in the world and that we have the best education system in the world. All of these things will help encourage business creation here and keep entrepreneurs here.”
Another executive asked Fiorina about what she could do about the apparent increasing aversion to taking risks in the country.
“This thicket of rules that has rolled out of Washington over the past 40 years under Republicans and Democrats alike absolutely discourages risk-taking,” she said. “The consequences of breaking one rule can be so terrible for people. It’s one of the reasons why we have to start rolling those back.”
Fiorina cited a recent NLRB joint-employer rule affecting franchisees and franchisors as one that she would work to rescind. She also said she would roll back hundreds of pages of rules governing the Internet, among other rules.
“As we have become, over the decades, a nation of rules, a nation of incredibly complicated and punitive government, we are slowly crushing the entrepreneurial and risk-taking spirit of this nation,” she said. “We are also now destroying more small businesses than we are creating for the first time in U.S. history which means that as more and more small businesses go out of business because they can’t handle the crushing [regulations] we don’t have enough entrepreneurs stepping up and taking the risk and succeeding. It’s why we’re at a pivotal point and it’s why I’m running for president.”