Former Dallas Mayor & U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk On His Tenure, Politics, Return To Texas
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – After four years, a trusted member of President Obama’s cabinet is leaving office.
U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s last day is Thursday.
During a satellite interview Tuesday, Ambassador Kirk said he feels good about his tenure as Trade Representative.
He leaves one day before automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, are set to take effect, which concerns him.
Kirk says, “My biggest regret right now is the uncertainty over my leaving because all the dramatics around the sequester.”
As President Obama’s top trade negotiator, he’s seen drama while dealing with China, the world’s second largest economy behind the U.S.
WATCH: U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE RON KIRK’S INTERVIEW
Mr. Kirk says, “I think on balance, we have seen job growth on balance as a result of our exports with China, which have exploded over the last ten years, but we certainly have our challenges.”
China has been accused of many unfair business and trade practices, including manipulating its own currency, which hurts American businesses.
CBS 11’s Jack Fink asked the ambassador if an ultimatum has been given to China’s new leadership.
“Well, I don’t know if ultimatum is the right word, but I would say this, the Obama administration has been absolutely resolute in insisting China has to live up to the covenants that it made when we granted them normal permanent normal trade relations status ten years ago.”
Kirk’s tenure comes as the U.S. is in the process of negotiating trade deals with the European Union and ten nations in the Asia-Pacific region known as the Trans-Pacific partnership.
Critics accuse the Obama administration of allowing talks to stall, but Kirk rejected that saying, “We have worked ridiculously hard to advance this. These are very complex, detailed negotiations that cover all aspects of business to agriculture and trade, manufactured goods.”
Texas remains the number one exporting state in the nation.
The ambassador acknowledges that, and says they’ve encouraged other states to embrace trade. “One of the strengths in our approach to trade has been not trying to get everyone to be like Texas, but being more honest to going to places like Detroit, like Pennsylvania, like the Carolinas, and other states in the industrial Midwest, places skeptical about trade, and honestly addressing their concerns and helping them understand they can win from trade as well.”
Kirk says, “I have now served our country, our city, and our state, it is now time to serve the Kirk girls.”
The President hasn’t nominated anyone yet to replace Kirk.
Mr. Obama has come under criticism for a lack of diversity in his cabinet during his second term.
But Mr. Kirk says he’s not concerned. “I’ve had a chance to observe and be a part of his first cabinet, it’s as strong and diverse as any we’ve had, and I have no doubt whatsoever, that that diversity and strength will continue in the second term. I’m more concerned with the growing obstructionism with the congress that’s manifesting itself if you look at President Obama’s nominees that have been on hold, that have been stalled in the senate. It’s just about unconscionable. We had an election. This President won.”
Senate Republicans say it’s their job to thoroughly review the president’s nominees.
While Kirk, a former two-term mayor of Dallas hasn’t said what he’ll do when he leaves office, he says he will return to Texas and vows he won’t run for political office.
But he still follows Texas politics closely.
He sharply criticized the Republican-dominated Texas legislature for not adequately funding public schools and higher education.
“I don’t know how much longer we can wait to address this critical area when we’ve had study after study show that when you don’t provide basic education you end up with more people in your prisons, you end up with more people on welfare. I mean Texas is at the bottom of the misery index in so many categories, and I don’t see how any Texan should be proud of that.”
Kirk says he’s pleased to hear about a new effort called “Battleground Texas.”
It’s aimed at turning Texas, a red state dominated by conservative Republicans into a blue state.
With the state’s increasing population of Hispanics, who vote Democratic by a 2 to 1 margin, many analysts believe the state will become hotly contested by the mid-2020’s.
WATCH: KIRK TALK ABOUT EFFORT TO TURN TEXAS BLUE
Kirk says, “There are many of us who believe this shouldn’t be about demographic trends, but there are things we can do to have elected representation in this state that’s much more balanced as it is now with Republicans.”
And then there is the much talked about golf game with President Obama and Tiger Woods earlier this month.
Kirk says he teases his friends, “Any knuckle-head can have a bunch of jerks make fun of your swing, but I’m one of the few people who can say, hey, I’ve had Tiger Woods make fun of my golf swing. I got to tell you Jack, it was about as an intimidating experience as I’ve ever had. Tiger Woods was wonderful and gracious.”
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