The White House said Monday that nobody knows better than President Trump, whose name-brand shirts and ties have been made in places such as China and Indonesia, how difficult it is to manufacture products in the U.S.
“I think he actually understands in a very unique way the challenges that our regulatory system and our tax system put on businesses that want to hire here, want to grow here,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Mr. Trump hosted a “Made in America” event at the White House on Monday to showcase products made in all 50 states, from Arizona’s Ping golf clubs to Tennessee’s Gibson guitars. It was the start of a midsummer push by the Trump administration on trade and competitiveness, intended in part to pressure Congress to move forward with tax reform.
The administration also released its goals for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, talks that will begin next month aimed at Mr. Trump’s objective of reducing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. Among the administration’s principles for negotiating are seeking to eliminate nontariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. including price undercutting, that “unfairly limit access to markets for U.S. goods.”
The president told industry leaders that he wants to make “made in the U.S.A.” a source of pride again.
“Remember in the old days, they used to have ‘made in the U.S.A.’?” Mr. Trump said to business leaders at the White House. “We’re going to start doing that again. We’re going to put that brand on our product because it means it’s the best.”
Democrats criticized Mr. Trump for promoting American products while his brands of apparel, the furnishings in his hotels and his daughter Ivanka’s line of merchandise are mostly made in other countries.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said it was the “height of hypocrisy to be rolling out ‘Made in America’ week when Trump’s businesses have been producing most of their products overseas.”
Mr. Spicer said it would be “inappropriate” for him to discuss Trump companies, but he said in some cases, “there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country.” He said Mr. Trump wants to expand the manufacturing base in the U.S. for all products.
“The president’s agenda of regulatory relief and tax relief [is] focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here and expand here to manufacture here,” Mr. Spicer said. “That’s something that he wants for every company. The president’s been a very successful businessman on a number of fronts, to understand very first-hand what the tax burden and regulatory burdens do to a business.”
The daylong event at the White House on American-made products included a fire truck and dump truck and a helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky, builder of Marine One (Mr. Trump said “I have three of them!”) parked on the South Lawn. The president told business leaders that his agenda of cutting regulations is having an impact on the U.S. economy, and he promised, “You’re going to see a lot of things happening over the next six months. Wait till you see what’s up for you. You’re going to be so happy.”
“The hard part now is done,” Mr. Trump predicted.
But in Congress, the hard part is not done by a long-shot.
To underscore the work that remains, a group of large U.S. companies ranging from Boeing to Johnson & Johnson urged the Senate Finance Committee on Monday to take up comprehensive tax reform this year.
The American Made Coalition called for a cut in the corporate tax rate of 35 percent to make the U.S. more competitive with other countries, a “territorial tax system” that encourages businesses to reinvest foreign earnings in the U.S., and making reforms permanent.
“Our coalition members would be disappointed if Washington squanders this once-in-a-generation opportunity by abandoning real reform to instead enact a temporary rate cut or some other half-measure that fails to fix what is really broken in our tax code,” the group said in a letter.
Mr. Trump has been calling for tax reform this year, including cuts in corporate and individual tax rates, to boost jobs and wages. But the plan has been stalled as Congress struggles to complete legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, which the administration views as essential to make room for a comprehensive tax overhaul.
“For our nation to really prosper, we must lower the tax on business, one of the highest in the world, and we must repeal job-killing Obamacare,” Mr. Trump said.
The events Monday were part of a revised communications strategy by the White House, which has struggled to present a consistent message to the public amid continuous news coverage of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. After more events focused on American-made products this week, the White House next week will promote American jobs and workers The following week will be devoted to the “American dream.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, praised the administration’s principles for renegotiating NAFTA, saying the U.S. needs to devote more attention to enforcement actions in trade agreements.
“These objectives set an ambitious standard for improving NAFTA and make clear that the United States is seeking strong, enforceable rules that go beyond any agreement ever negotiated,” Mr. Brady said.
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