Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz en route Watertown, SD, 5/8/2015
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Watertown, South Dakota
12:35 P.M. PDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome aboard Air Force One en route to Watertown, South Dakota, where the President will deliver the commencement address at Lake Area Technical College to underscore the importance of making community college available to all responsible students as part of America’s College Promise campaign.
As you all know, Lake Area Technical Institute is a public two-year community college that leads the nation in preparing students for success in the 21st century economy. With that, I will take your questions.
Q Eric, has the President talked to Prime Minister Cameron?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, he has, Jim. Right before I came out, the President had the opportunity to call Prime Minister Cameron and congratulate him on his victory. We’ll have a fuller readout as soon as we can.
Q Can I ask you about next week, in the meeting that the President will have with the Gulf coalition members? What is the President’s main goal? What does he want to achieve in this meeting?
MR. SCHULTZ: Thanks, Jim. The President does indeed look forward to welcoming leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council to meetings at the White House and Camp David next week. This will be an important gathering for the leadership from the United States and the GCC to discuss ways to enhance our partnership and deepen security cooperation.
I think, specifically, discussions we’ll look at seeking common approaches from all of these countries on resolving the conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. This is also an opportunity to reaffirm the U.S. strategic partnership with the Gulf States; our shared concern about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region; and our mutual commitment to take steps necessary to enhance stability in the Gulf and deescalate tensions there.
Q Is there a greater focus on the U.S. providing military materiel to the region? Is that a significant component of this? Or is it mostly about coordinating their own cooperation for security arrangements?
MR. SCHULTZ: Jim, I don’t have any announcements for that summit -- for next week’s summit to preview at this time. I do think that it’s important to note that the United States values greatly our relationship with the GCC countries, and we do look forward to an in-depth and substantive exchange on key issues at this meeting.
We’ve enjoyed a long history of an open, candid dialogue, and we look forward to continuing that next week in Washington.
Q And how much of this will be devoted to calming any fears they might have about the Iran nuclear talks?
MR. SCHULTZ: I do think this will be an opportunity to reaffirm our relationships with those countries in light of Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region. I also think it’s important to note that the coalition -- these countries and the United States share many goals for the region, including on the issues that I just mentioned, dealing with Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya.
And as the Vice President noted in a recent speech, there are 35,000 U.S. forces in the Gulf region right now to deter aggression and defend our partners. So our commitment to their external defense remains firm, but I do think that will be a topic of conversation next week.
Q Can I ask you about Yemen in particular?
MR. SCHULTZ: You can.
Q Given that there are questions about the humanitarian aid getting through, is the five-day ceasefire enough?
MR. SCHULTZ: Steve, the United States does indeed support the Saudi initiative to bring about a peaceful resolution through the announcement of their intent to establish a full, five-day renewable ceasefire and humanitarian pause. This ceasefire and humanitarian pause is conditioned on the Houthis agreeing to honor the same commitments as all parties. It is also conditioned upon the understanding that neither party should exploit this humanitarian pause by taking violent action or repositioning troops to achieve military advantage.
We do -- as you I think are suggesting, we do remain deeply concerned about the situation on the ground, but we do fully support the efforts to facilitate this unimpeded delivery of the humanitarian aid.
Q Is the humanitarian aid going to get through within five days?
MR. SCHULTZ: Steve, we do continue to call upon all sides to comply with the international humanitarian law, including taking all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and to urgently work with the U.N. and humanitarian aid to urgently get the assistance to those in need.
Q Eric, during the visit to Nike today, did the company, the CEO, give the President or any of the White House staff any additional information on these jobs that they said it would create as a result of the TPP, particularly where they would be placed and how much the workers would be paid, and those types of things?
MR. SCHULTZ: Jeff, I think the information that Nike shared with us was very similar to the information that Nike shared with you. As they have said, if this trade deal were to get done, that would mean lower tariffs for them, and that would allow them to create 10,000 new jobs here in the United States. That’s the type of job creation that the President is seeking on behalf -- in association with this deal. He believes it’s good for America’s workers, good for the American workforce, and I think Nike was a helpful illustration of why that is today.
Q So no additional details about what kinds of jobs, or what they would be paid, or where they would be located, et cetera?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have additional details beyond what Nike has said.
Q -- put out a statement on the announcement, and said it was a welcome development, but said that this announcement shouldn’t be contingent on passage of a trade deal. I'm wondering if the White House has any thoughts on why a company with the kind of profits that Nike has is basing this decision on a trade deal. Or is this just a pretty transparent play for votes here?
MR. SCHULTZ: Mike, you’ll have to ask Nike about their business modeling. At this point in my life, I’m not expert in that. I will say that I think Nike’s commitment here is symbolic of what many other businesses, both small and large -- as you have heard both today and in recent weeks -- have said would mean for their businesses. And that means greater exports, again, from companies as large as Nike or as small as the winemakers in the northwest here.
So we believe that this is good for America’s workers, good for American jobs. And if you just take a look at the data, which is 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside our borders, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be competing in those marketplaces -- mostly because, as the President said today, that when we do compete on a level playing field, we win.
Q Eric, on the Democratic congresswoman who represents the district where is Nike headquartered, is now on board with TPP and TPA. Apparently the President has persuaded her that it’s a good idea. Maybe Nike helped persuade her that it was a good idea, too. Beyond her, has the President picked up any additional Democratic support in the last couple of days and through today’s speech that you can share with us?
MR. SCHULTZ: Margaret, before I came to the White House, I worked on Capitol Hill for a number of years. Part of my portfolio was never whip counting. So I'm not going to try and do that today. I would defer to my able colleagues on the Hill.
I do think that the President is engaged in both one-on-one conversations but also making the pitch on a broader scale. That includes events like today at Nike, that includes interviews he’s done, that includes roundtables, but that also includes members -- private conversations, one-on-one conversations. That includes briefings that senior administration officials have had on the Hill. And that also includes making sure that everyone understands that the TPA bill that was introduced was the boldest, had the most progressive human rights, labor, and environmental protections that we’ve ever seen.
Q And he said today in his speech that some of his Democratic friends were just wrong. Was he talking about Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid? Who was he talking about?
MR. SCHULTZ: Margaret, I think the President is the first to admit that this is a difficult and challenging issue for Democrats. That given the history of past trade deals not living up to the hype, that it’s been difficult to navigate this.
But I think that is why the President redoubled his efforts to make sure that this was the most progressive trade deal that we’ve ever seen. He has insisted to his negotiators to make sure those protections are included in the text of the negotiating agreement, and that they’re fully enforceable.
Q Are you not naming names then?
MR. SCHULTZ: I'm not going to name any names.
Q On Elizabeth Warren, there was a Politico article quoting -- or citing Obama administration officials saying her attacks on TPP were “desperate” and “baseless,” and also saying it was just to gin up support for Ready for Warren. Were those claims true in that report?
MR. SCHULTZ: Kimberly, I did see that story. I think the President has addressed the arguments made by the opponents of this deal head-on and been very candid on what he thinks. I’ll leave it at that.
Q Can I ask you a question about South Dakota and the 50th state?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes.
Q When is he going to go to all the territories?
MR. SCHULTZ: Steve, I don't have any additional travel to chart out for you at this time.
Q One more thing on the trade issue. As I understand it, the President’s main argument is that 95 percent of the markets of the world are not in the U.S.; if you open up those markets or a significant portion of those markets, it’s good for U.S. producers and increases jobs at home. It seems that the message today was exactly the opposite. It was about lowering tariffs in the U.S. so that Vietnam can sell more products here. Is that the message the President -- I mean, isn’t that a contradictory theme?
MR. SCHULTZ: Jim, I think you're getting at the multi-faceted benefits of what this trade deal would mean for America’s workers. You are correct that 95 percent of the world’s marketplace are outside U.S. borders. And it’s incumbent upon the President and the leaders of this country to make sure those marketplaces are open to U.S. companies.
It’s also worth noting that our exports support 11 million good-American-paying jobs. And we know that companies export -- companies that export pay higher wages than those that don’t. So when Nike, as they did in their announcement, attests to the fact that lower tariffs, which is part of the trade agreement that we're seeking, helps them build manufacturing back here at home, we think that's a good thing and worth lifting up.
Q Eric, after the State Department decided not to look into Secretary Clinton’s agreement -- or not fulfilling the agreement regarding the foundation, is that something that the President is now going to look at or that the White House wants to look at, or do you consider the issue closed?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, I haven’t heard of anything like that. As you know, Jeff, this was a memo of understanding that was signed in 2008, with responsibility for its enforcement at the State Department. So we're going to leave it there.
I do have a week ahead. On Monday, the President will deliver remarks in an event bringing together emerging entrepreneurs from across the United States and around the world to highlight innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, including poverty, climate change, extremism, as well as access to education and health care. This event comes ahead of the President’s travel to the summit in Kenya this summer.
On Tuesday, the President will participate in a discussion with Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown. The discussion will be moderated by E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and professor at Georgetown’s own McCourt School of Public Policy.
On Wednesday, the President will meet at the White House with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to build on their close consultations on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues.
Later on Wednesday, the President will welcome leaders and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to the White House. The gathering will be an opportunity to discuss ways to enhance our mutual partnership and deepen security cooperation.
On Thursday, the President will welcome the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders and delegations to Camp David to continue their discussions.
And on Friday, the President will deliver remarks at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the Capitol.
Thank you, guys.
END 12:48 P.M. PDT