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Ambassador Max Baucus

Based in MT, USA

  • Over 35 years as U.S. Senator (D-MT) (1978-2013)
  • 7 years as Chairman, Senate Finance Committee (2007-2014)
  • U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (2014-2017)
  • Three decades of experience in the US Senate serving on the committees of Finance, Taxation, Deficit Reduction, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Environment and Public Works
  • A seasoned voice on issues important to your business and audiences around the globe
  • Over 35 years as U.S. Senator (D-MT) (1978-2013)
  • 7 years as Chairman, Senate Finance Committee (2007-2014)
  • U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (2014-2017)
  • Three decades of experience in the US Senate serving on the committees of Finance, Taxation, Deficit Reduction, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Environment and Public Works
  • A seasoned voice on issues important to your business and audiences around the globe

Ambassador Max BAUCUS is the most recent US Ambassador to China. He served from February 21, 2014 to January 20, 2017.

Prior to this, he served as a US Senator (D-MT) from 1978 to 2013, making him the longest serving Senator in Montana history. During this time Baucus led the US effort in the 1990s to bring China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 and voted in favor of establishing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China in 2000.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance (2007-2014), he worked on and enacted Free Trade Agreements with 11 countries. He also worked tirelessly to increase U.S. exports by leading trade missions to a number of countries, including China. As Chairman, he gained extensive experience in US tax reform and trade policy, and he contributed greatly to the debate over US health care reform, playing an influential role in the Affordable Healthcare Act.

He also held roles on a number of other committees including: Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Ambassador Baucus is married to Ms. Melodee Hanes, and they reside in Montana.

It comes down to working together, says former Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.), talking about the difficulty in getting a tax plan passed through Congress. Also Baucus explains why he doesn’t think health care reform will get very far because it’s such a “muddled mess”.

The Republican’s plan was too rushed, says former U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, sharing his thoughts on the American Health Care Act.

Longtime U.S. Senator and recent Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, spoke with Face the State hosts Dr. David Parker, MTN Political Analyst, and Mike Dennison, MTN Chief Political Reporter. Baucus discussed U.S. relations and trade issues with China, the GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act which he was instrumental in developing and passing, and the current demeanor among politicians in the U.S. Senate where he was a member for three decades.

 

Max Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China and Democratic Senator from Montana, discusses the American Health Care Act unveiled by Republicans as their intended replacement for Obamacare. He speaks with Bloomberg’s David Westin on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.”

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“We need each other, theU.S. and China. China needs us. We need themand they know that.”

— Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China and former U.S. senator

It might have been Donald Trump’s insistence that climate change was a Chinese hoax, or that the U.S. had become the communist state’s piggy bank to rebuild the Middle Kingdom.

Whatever the inflammatory remark was, the Chinese began asking questions about Donald Trump early in the election season. And when they did, they often directed those questions to former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, who would say that like the Chinese, he wasn’t really sure who The Donald truly was. Now that he’s back in the U.S., the native Montanan still isn’t sure.

“They asked me a lot of questions, ‘Who is this guy Trump?’ And my answer was, ‘I’m as flummoxed as you are. It’s hard for me to know,’” Baucus told The Gazette last week.

Living in Beijing since early 2014, Baucus had missed the rise of Trump, from the real estate mogul’s fateful June 2015 ride down the escalator of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy as “Rocking in the Free World” blared over speakers, to Trump’s political cage match victory over 16 Republican primary opponents.

Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton left Democrats slack-jawed and had a similar effect on the Chinese. Former President Barack Obama had visited Beijing the September before the election and told his hosts Hillary Clinton was the likely victor.

“I found that during the time I was there, they became very sophisticated about the U.S. political system and asked a lot of good questions. The questions they asked, the early ones were ‘Gee, will he really impose a 45 percent tariff? Will he really name China a currency manipulator?’ And my answer to all that was, ‘Gee, I don’t know. I highly doubt there will be a 45 percent tariff. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Currency manipulation maybe, but that’s problematic because the Chinese currency is going down in value, not up.’”

China has invested $1 trillion in foreign currencies to keep its own money from depreciating further and destabilizing its economy, Baucus said.

Strained relations

But Baucus told the Chinese that U.S.-China relationships were going to be more difficult because many Americans blamed trade agreements for lost jobs. And trade with China, although the nations don’t have an agreement, was a primary cause.

“They knew that. They knew tensions were going to be worse, but my next suggestion to them was ‘Do something positive. Take the initiative on trade or similar matters to show that you can work with this administration,” Baucus said. “And they said, ‘What should we do?’ and I said ‘First of all, take American beef,’ and they laughed. I said, ‘Something like that to show that you care, to diffuse some of this anti-China rhetoric you’re going to see.’”

Back in the United States for less than two weeks, Baucus is still doing what he can to help a U.S.-China relationship he has for decades considered vital. Friday, he was flying to Iowa to meet with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to China. Branstad has reportedly developed a relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has visited Iowa several times.

“We need each other, the U.S. and China. China needs us. We need them and they know that,” Baucus said. “They value stability so much. They don’t want the boat rocked. Maybe a little ripple, that’s fine, maybe a little choppy sea, that’s OK — but no storm.”

No country trades more goods with the United States than China. The countries traded $659.4 billion in goods in 2015, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. But the United States sent $161.6 billion in goods to China in 2015, while receiving $497.8 billion. That lopsided exchange, $336 billion in China’s favor, has been a major sticking point for decades, even though only two nations receive more U.S. goods than China.

As Montana’s senator for 36 years, Baucus was the longest sitting member of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles trade issues. In that role Baucus had a role in the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty, which sets the rules for U.S. investment in China and vice versa.

Filling the void

He took the Senate lead on the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement not including China that was to cement the United States as the key economic force in the Asian Pacific.

President Trump announced this week that the United States would withdraw from TPP. Baucus said China will quickly fill the void left by the United States’ exit. Empty spaces fill quickly in China, Baucus said, on the train, at the dinner table, on a crowded street. In a country with 1.3 billion people hungry for a better life, taking what’s available is a mindset, Baucus said, and that mindset extends to economic policy, as well.

In the Senate, Baucus played a role in U.S. policy toward China at least since the 1980s when Congress launched a raft of bills to turn back a $150 billion trade deficit. Baucus faulted President Ronald Reagan for lacking a trade policy. As a result, Baucus said at the time that “virtually every American industry is going down the drain.”

By 1989, Baucus was chairman on the Senate subcommittee on international trade and backing President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to investigate unfair trade practices concerning intellectual property rights in several countries, including China.

But Baucus also championed preserving most favored nation trade benefits for China, crafting a plan in the early 1990s that granted the status, while also requiring action on other fronts.

From that point on, Baucus repeatedly circled back during his tenure to address piracy of patented intellectual property by the Chinese.

Baucus helped secure permanent normal trading relations for China, a necessary step before China could enter the World Trade Organization.

Back in Montana

In some way, still being roughed out, Baucus plans to work from the private sector on U.S. Relations with China. He’s developing a “Baucus Institute” at the University of Montana Law School, which will surely have a China component, he said.

Baucus and his wife, Melodee Hanes, are back in Montana after nearly three years at the Chinese embassy in Beijing.

They live in a guesthouse northwest of Bozeman on a small acreage the couple bought shortly before Baucus left the Senate after nearly 36 years. The couple planned to build a larger home on the property, but shelved the blueprints after President Barack Obama nominated Baucus for U.S. ambassador to China in 2014.

It’s a nice neighborhood, not far away from the driveway of U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, the Republican who now occupies the Senate seat Baucus vacated.

Friday morning the views from the Baucus’s home were brilliant. The now-capped Bridger Mountains towered in the east, the white tips of the Tobacco Roots were in sharp focus some 30 miles to the west.

“I see the Spanish Peaks. I couldn’t be better. It’s the icing on the cake. I can go outside and run now,” Baucus said.

An avid marathoner, Baucus rarely ran outside in Beijing because of poor air quality. He tried his luck at a half marathon shortly after arriving in China, but walked away from the starting line because of the pollution.

In 2013, when news broke of Baucus’s nomination, China Digital Times reported that the Chinese, stricken by Baucus’ age and Beijing’s notoriously bad air quality, nicknamed him Ambassador “Bao Kesi,” loosely translated as “coughs to death.” His predecessors at the U.S. embassy each lasted less than two years. Baucus lasted nearly three and left believing he still had a role to play in U.S.-China relations.

“I’ll always have some connection, some significant involvement with China, because it’s so interesting and I care about the relationship so much,” Baucus said. “That’s why I’m going to see Branstad, because I care. I don’t care that he’s a Republican. I want to help the relationship.”

Customers lining up outside an Apple store in Tokyo. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have set new terms and standards for trade for the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, including Japan. Credit Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Customers lining up outside an Apple store in Tokyo. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have set new terms and standards for trade for the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, including Japan. Credit Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When hope of enacting the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact ended in November, Max Baucus, the United States ambassador to China, was among the officials who had to grapple with disappointment.

The partnership, called the TPP, was a hallmark of the Obama administration. It would have been one of the largest trade agreements in history, covering about 40 percent of the world’s economy and setting new terms and standards for trade for the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. China was not included but would have been able to join.

When President Obama plucked Mr. Baucus in 2013 from the United States Senate to be the ambassador to China, he chose a politician with a record of promoting free trade. As ambassador, Mr. Baucus supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership and tried to dampen alarm in China over the American-led effort.

Max Baucus, the United States ambassador to China. Credit Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Max Baucus, the United States ambassador to China. Credit Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Last week Mr. Baucus took the unusual step, with five other American ambassadors in the Asia-Pacific region, of sending an open letter to Congress asking its members to support the pact in an effort to cement a leadership position for the United States in regional trade and not yield that role to China, which has the second-biggest economy in the world.

In their letter, the ambassadors warn that “walking away from TPP may be seen by future generations as the moment America chose to cede leadership to others in this part of the world and accept a diminished role.”

“Such an outcome would be cause for celebration among those who favor ‘Asia for the Asians’ and state capitalism,” it added.

This passage critiques President Xi Jinping of China, who has said that Asia should be run by Asians and is a champion of a Chinese economic system that relies on industrial policy. (Mr. Xi was scheduled to appear on Tuesday at the pro-free-trade World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the first Chinese leader to do so.)

The 2016 presidential race was shaped by anti-globalization trends. Donald J. Trump promised to destroy the pact if he became president. Hillary Clinton also denounced it, even though she supported a form of it as secretary of state.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said after the election in November that Congress would not take it up. That meant it was dead.

The letter by the six ambassadors, all of whom are political appointees who leave their jobs on Friday, was symbolic. It put them on record supporting Mr. Obama’s plan more than a year after the trade chiefs of the nations involved endorsed the pact. Following is the text of the letter:

An Open Letter to Members of Congress:

Seventy-five years ago last month, an attack on the United States set us on the path to becoming the Asia-Pacific power we are today. As U.S. Ambassadors assigned to the region, we interact daily with governmental, business, and civil society leaders who appreciate profoundly the role the United States has played in underpinning the region’s security and prosperity ever since. These same leaders are now asking an alarming question: Will we relinquish our mantle as the pre-eminent force for good in the planet’s most dynamic region? The cause for their concern — possible U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We believe their fears are justified, that walking away from TPP may be seen by future generations as the moment America chose to cede leadership to others in this part of the world and accept a diminished role. Such an outcome would be cause for celebration among those who favor “Asia for the Asians” and state capitalism. It would be disastrous for supporters of inclusive politics, rule of law, and market economics — and for U.S. national interests.

Let’s be clear. The alternative to a TPP world is not the status quo. Others are actively engaged in setting the rules of commerce in the Asia-Pacific region without the United States. In addition to its massive Eurasian infrastructure initiative, China is working on a trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with fifteen other countries, many of whom are TPP signatories. RCEP is a much lower-standard agreement that, in the absence of TPP, would likely serve as the template for economic integration in Asia and shift trade away from America, which would face higher tariffs. That would mean less U.S. exports and more jobs moving overseas.

TPP would not just cut tariffs for U.S. products. Unlike RCEP, it would compel stronger intellectual property rights, limits on subsidies to state-owned enterprises, and protection of worker rights, the environment, and a free and open internet. These enforceable commitments would give a leg up to U.S. companies already adhering to high standards — and the U.S. workers who make them the most productive in the world — and provide a powerful lever for change that we are unlikely to replicate in any other form in the near future. Without them, our companies will face even more competitive disadvantages in Asia’s booming markets.

The blow to our strategic position is even more worrisome. This is not speculation. To turn our back on our allies and friends at this critical juncture, when the tectonic plates of regional power are shifting faster than ever, would undermine our credibility not only as a reliable trade partner, but as a leader on both sides of the Pacific. It would also create a potentially destabilizing void that might even lead to conflict, an outcome which would hurt everyone in the region, including China.

The bottom line is this: TPP is good for American workers, American values, and American strategic interests. We urge the Congress to work with the new administration to find a way to realize its many benefits before the window for doing so closes. As we reflect on more than seven decades of U.S. sacrifice and stewardship in the region that will define our destiny in coming decades, we should understand that, if we fail to answer today’s call, history will pose a stern question — why did America forsake its best chance to shape the Pacific Century?

Signed by: Max Baucus, ambassador to China; Nina Hachigian, ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Japan; Mark Lippert, ambassador to South Korea; Mark Gilbert, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa; and Kirk Wagar, ambassador to Singapore.

Originally by: Edward Wong

Source: NY Times, Jan 17, 2017

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America has a mandate to create more jobs and be more competitive. US tax reforms are underway and trade pacts and policies are changing. What does that mean for your business? Former US Ambassador to China, former Senator and Chairman of the US Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, is covering these topics and the importance of US-China relations.

  • International trade policy
  • US tax policy and tax reform
  • US – China cross border investment opportunities
  • US – China relations (including relevant issues such as currency, the environment, intellectual property, trade, and tax reforms).
  • Climate change and US environmental policy and legislation
  • US healthcare reform