On his way out, White House economist Kevin Hassett says expanded legal immigration could help America

Posted at 11:09 AM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 13:43:13-04

Expanding legal immigration could boost the American economy, outgoing White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN Business.

“We could absolutely improve the economy with immigration reform, and that’s why we rolled out a plan to do that,” Hassett told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Hassett, who will leave office soon, advocated for a points-based immigration system, which would consider factors like education to determine an immigrant’s eligibility. Canada and Australia use similar methods for deciding who to allow into their countries. President Donald Trump announced a plan for merit-based immigration in May.

“If we move to a points-based system where we’re getting the workers that American firms need into the country … then I think everybody would support expanded immigration in that circumstance,” Hassett said.

Immigrant rights advocates object to Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, arguing it favors well-off immigrants over asylum seekers and people without means. Critics say it could end up curbing legal immigration.

Trump announced Hassett’s departureas chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in early June.

Trade deal hopes

On trade negotiations with China, Hassett said he believed all want to get a deal done.

Trump is set to meet China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan this week, and hopes are high that the next phase of the trade negotiations is around the corner. But Trump told Fox Business on Wednesday that he plans to levy “billions and billions” of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods as a “Plan B.”

Hassett said the president’s alternative plan is appropriate recourse if a deal cannot be completed.

“If China continues to engage in some of the practices we want to convince them to change, I think the president is right,” Hassett said. “If it doesn’t get fixed, he’s right about what he’s going to do.”

Fed under fire

Trump on Wednesday continued his unprecedented public attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Hassett said he believes in the Fed’s independence from politics.

“Forever and ever I respect the independence of the Fed, and the president appointed a very strong, independent Fed, and he also expresses his opinions,” Hassett said.

Trump has criticized Powell, whom he named to the job, for pursuing monetary policy that he believes is too tough on markets. Trump called for lower rates to boost economic growth.

Hassett said he believed most market participants believed that rate hike in December was ill-conceived, but he then said it’s his job to criticize the Fed.

“Invite me back, and I’ll speak more frankly,” Hassett said. He will step down from his role at the end of June.