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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript


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ROMANS: And now let's head to Ali Velshi, who is in Tampa ahead of that debate. Good morning, Ali.

VELSHI: Good morning to both of you. We are live at the Florida state fairgrounds, the site of tonight's big CNN/Tea Party debate. Our next guest has said that Florida is make-or-break for his campaign. Former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is joining me now. Good morning, sir. Welcome.

JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ali, good to see you. It's a pleasure.

VELSHI: Take a look at the polls. Why are you there? You have been an executive of a state, a very successful executive of a state from a business perspective. You have gone over and worked in China, which is our, you know, probably the most important country to the United States in the next 10 or 15 years. And you're polling in a place that doesn't seem to make sense for an electorate that thinks the economy is a number one issue. What do you think the issue is?

HUNTSMAN: The issue is the economy. The issue is whether or not we're going to be able to come together as a nation. We watched the 10-year anniversary last night. A lot of Americans had tears as they watched that play out. We came together after a national tragedy. I'm here to tell you we're going to have to come together again to fix this economy. That's what this is about.

These are early days, Ali, and we have been in this for about two months. We are just beginning to introduce ourselves to the American people. And as we do, they will see we bring together the elements of success -- private sector experience, having been a successful governor when we were number one in job creation in this country, best managed state in America.

But third, and perhaps just as important, I have worked overseas four times. I have been an ambassador three times. We live in a competitive marketplace. I understand what are competitor nations are doing to prepare for the rest of the 21st century. We too must step up and prepare.

VELSHI: OK, so let's go back to your experience in Utah, which has helped you develop a plan that got endorsed by the "Wall Street Journal." Ultimately, what we need answers on, and maybe the Tea Party audience doesn't need them as clearly as the rest of the country do because there are specific issues with this audience -- what do we do to create jobs? What is the thing? What is the role government can play? Because what we've heard a lot of from your opponents is that the government needs to get out of the way. It's a little more complicated than that.

HUNTSMAN: Well, we've got to create a framework, an environment that speaks to competitiveness. If you talk to businesses big and small, and I do every day as we journey around the country, they tell you the same thing -- there needs to be predictability and transparency in the system. They need to know where the marketplace is going to be in terms of regulation and tax policy three to five years from now.

VELSHI: That's not the same as saying that there doesn't need to be regulation and regulation just ends in the way of business.

HUNTSMAN: It depends what kind of regulation you're talking about. We have to repeal Obamacare, not because that's good political speak but you talk to the people who should be standing behind it and defending it, and they are the first ones to say $1 trillion dropped on this economy when we can least afford it, a new bureaucracy created, an unconstitutional mandate.

VELSHI: And you know that it has at this point had no effect on costs or jobs.

HUNTSMAN: Well, when you talk to small business folks and they anticipate 2014 and beyond, they say we are not going to hire, we're not going to deploy capital expenditures in the marketplace because there's too much in the way of an unknown environment out there.

So you combine Obamacare with Dodd-Frank, for example, on the financial services reform side, you have the makings for a very uncertain marketplace. So you have to clear the clutter and roll out a tax policy that speaks to 21st century competitiveness.

Now, I've rolled out an idea that takes all the deductions and the loopholes and wipes them clean. On the corporate side, it takes corporate welfare and subsidies and wipes it clean. It allows us to lower the rate and broaden the base.

VELSHI: Which other countries have done successfully. And that seems to be a logical place to go. But Americans I think need to hear that it's hand in hand. You eliminate -- if you want lower taxes on businesses, businesses have to pay taxes.

HUNTSMAN: You got to pay for it. And you have to raise that revenue so you can reinvest back into the tax code.

And we forget, the last time we had major tax reform was under Reagan in 1986. We haven't done a whole lot since. We forget that major competitive countries of the world have gone through tax reform, they've cleaned up the marketplace, they are ready for the 21st century. All the while we are sitting and thinking 25 percent of the world's GDP, that's good enough to carry us through the rest of the century. And I'm here to tell you it isn't. VELSHI: You had a very strong progressive record on energy, which has gotten a little tainted by your new report. You seem to have gone over to a side a little bit that suggests that regulation on the environment is this boogeyman that some of your competitors say it is. In fact, Michele Bachmann would like to do away with the EPA. Does that make sense in this world where we do have to think about the environment?

HUNTSMAN: Well, you've got to maintain clean air and clean water. But when you get to the point, Ali, when you can't build a manufacturing plant, you get to the point where build a nuclear power plant becomes next to impossible, you get to a point where we haven't built a refinery in this country for 25 to 30 years, you have to say there's significant overreach. And for us to get our percentage of GDP from manufacturing, up north of 10 percent, back to where when I was born in 1960 it was 25 percent, I mean, we can do a whole lot better than what we're doing.

VELSHI: But you lived in China. Are we really going to compete with China in manufacturing?

HUNTSMAN: Of course.

VELSHI: Are we really going to manufacture more goods?

HUNTSMAN: We're always going to be a step ahead in terms of industry development and innovation. So the industries of tomorrow, we're going to own. Whether they are health sciences or energy or personalized medicine, they are all going to be born here in the United States. And we take them to a certain level of success once they become commoditized. There will always be a country that can step up and do it a little cheaper and a little faster.

So we have to keep that innovative spirit alive and well in this country, or we lose. We forget sometimes that some other countries coming up -- I have lived in some of these countries, are learning how to innovate and educate the next generation in ways that suggest critical thinking, innovative skills, entrepreneurship, things they never did in the past.

So we not only do we have to innovate with the best of them, but we have to create a marketplace that is conducive to manufacturing, so not only innovate but we manufacture too.

VELSHI: Let me ask you about energy. You are a believer that energy can create more jobs in this country. How do we do that? How do we deal with the fact that we consume far more than we produce in this country? Our energy mix is a little out of whack. What's your suggestion?

HUNTSMAN: Well, we've got all kinds of options we can choose from domestically here. Just take natural gas for example. If you start phasing natural gas into the transportation fleet, and just start with the 18 wheeler, the big rig fleet, into power generation, and into manufacturing, where it's maybe 19 percent or 20 percent today, this is 500,000 jobs over the next five years. So says T. Boone Pickens, with whom I have had this conversation. And that's a lot better than this heroin-like addiction that we have to foreign oil, 60 percent of which comes from Canada, which is ok. But from other parts of the world, dangerous, unpredictable corners of the world where there's been a massive transfer of wealth.

I say for the most creative, optimistic, can-do people in the world, we can figure this one out. We just need some presidential leadership to stand behind the bully pulpit and say the time is right for us to move towards energy independence, and here's how to make it happen.

VELSHI: Jon Huntsman, we look forward to seeing you tonight.

HUNTSMAN: Ali, great to see you.

VELSHI: Good to see you.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.


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