Shaheen Has Concerns Trump May 'Over Promise' in North Korea Negotiations

Jun 8, 2018

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, spoke today with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley about North Korea, a possible trade war, and business interests in New Hampshire. (File photo)
Credit N.H. Public Radio

Senator Jeanne Shaheen raises concerns that President Donald Trump will promise too much and pin too much on one meeting with North Korea's dictator, in terms of long-sought efforts for denuclearization.

New Hampshire's senior senator spoke at length with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley about the negotiations set for next week in Singapore. She mentioned New Hampshire companies, from large manufacturers to small craft brewers, that worry about a trade war hurting their businesses.

(Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview)

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the two countries relations. New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and she joins us now to discuss her hopes and concerns about the upcoming meeting. Well, Senator Shaheen thank you for the time this morning.

It's nice to be with you.

As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, what are your thoughts leading up to Tuesday's North Korean U.S. summit. I mean, do you feel that this is a good idea and what do you expect to come of it?

Look, I think it's very important for us to look at diplomacy rather than conflict with Korea. Obviously we know that in past years, past attempts, that North Korea has been very difficult to deal, that they've said they would negotiate and in the end have pulled out of any agreements. But I think this is a much preferred option to the alternative. And I'm pleased that there is work that's being done to prepare for the summit. I think there is  ...  I have concerns that ... the president not over promise or raise expectations in a way that suggests that from this one negotiation that we're going to be able to get denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula. So I am concerned about that and I hope that all of the experts who are in the State Department who are working to prepare and working with our allies in South Korea and Japan are are trying to be realistic about what we can accomplish here.

Let's talk about trade and the administration's recent moves on tariffs. Are you in favor of any Senate plan to have more say on what the president can or can't do, and is there any kind of support there for the Senate to tackle that kind of legislation?

Well, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has legislation that I'm planning to cosponsor that proposes some limits on what the president would be able to do in terms of tariffs. You know, the the president's suggestion that it's easy to win a trade war is just not realistic. Trade wars are not in anyone's interests -- least of all the United States. We have ... our biggest trading partners are Canada and the EU. We don't want to get into a fight with them. They're also our closest allies. It... not only does it affect the economic situation that we have in the United States and we've seen that reflected in the stock market going up and down every time there's an announcement of tariffs, but it also affects our long term relationship in a way that is not helpful.

What about the president's assertion here that look there are trade imbalances and they need to be addressed in some way?

There are trade imbalances and we need to work on those but undermining -- setting up barriers and putting, you know, red lines down is not the best way to do that.

What are New Hampshire businesses telling you specifically .. have you heard from New Hampshire business people who are worried about this?

They're very concerned. For example, we have a small business in Londonderry called Moonlight Meadery.

It produces mead which is a form of liquor made from honey and ciders. They had a big business opportunity in China. They were planning to hire six people. That fell through because of the president's proposed presence tariffs. And so they're not going to be able to hire those people. That's a very big deal for them. We also have lots of larger companies in New Hampshire who trained -- are very big training partners. We have General Electric. We have BAE. We have so many big companies that also do a significant amount of trade.

And what are they telling you?

They are concerned about what the president's proposing and people like Anheuser-Busch and our craft brewing industry who are looking at an increase in prices on their aluminum cans that they put their beer in. That is going to have an impact. And then there's the other actions that the president has taken that are affecting prices for people, you know, pulling out of the Iran deal has contributed to the increase in gas prices which has made a significant impact on people. So there are consequences for what the president says and for what he does.

Lawmakers will reportedly be staying in Washington in August over that over the usual summer recess. Mitch McConnell saying that there's work to be done. Is there a feeling that any substantive work will get accomplished during that time?

Well I certainly hope so. You know one of the biggest challenges that I'm hearing from people in New Hampshire about is access to healthcare and health care costs going up because this administration has consistently tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and contributed to the increase in rates.

We've heard that directly from insurance companies -- that they are spiking because the administration is actively trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. And so we need to act on that. There has been bipartisan legislation since last summer to address these health care premiums spikes or rate premium increases and, consistently, the leadership in the Senate and the president have opposed pushing forward on that legislation.

You've recently endorsed state senator Molly Kelly in the New Hampshire governor's race. Can can you tell us why you made that announcement rather early in the primary process?

Because I think Molly Kelly would be a great governor. I've known Molly for over 30 years. I've worked with her before she was in the state Senate. We worked together and then worked together when she was in the state Senate. So I think she understands the challenges that people in New Hampshire are facing with health care. She was a supporter of the expansion of Medicaid so that more people could get health care. She understands the challenges with the opioid epidemic. She knows what we need to do to support businesses, small businesses, so they can create jobs. So I think she will be a great governor and I'm going to do everything I can to help her.

What's your working relationship like with Governor Sununu. I know at one point early this year he had said something to the effect that no one from New Hampshire in Washington is doing their job. I'm wondering if that kind of rhetoric kind of gets in the way of your relationship with him?

You know in New Hampshire we've had a history and certainly I have of working across party lines with whoever is in office. I did that when I was governor and I had a Republican federal delegation. I did that when I was governor and worked with our Republican legislature. I've done that in the Senate. When Judd Gregg and Kelly Ayotte were my colleagues in the Senate and have tried to work with Republicans no matter what office they're in. So I think that's important for New Hampshire. We're a small state. We all need to work together in the interests of our constituents.

But how is that relationship? Is there a working relationship there?

Yes. We just had a great ride on the Manchester when it came in. The governor and I went out as part of that and were able to talk about some of the issues facing New Hampshire with respect to infrastructure and specifically the turning basin in the Piscataqua (River) and what we need to do to work together to address that. So ... we just don't have time for partisan bickering. We've got too much to do.