President Donald Trump promised on Monday he would take more legal and regulatory steps during the next six months to protect American manufacturers, lashing out against trade deals and trade practices he said have hurt U.S. companies.
Trump climbed into an American-made fire truck parked behind the White House, took a swing with a baseball bat in the Blue Room, and briefly donned a customized Stetson cowboy hat in front of cheering manufacturing company executives from all 50 states gathered to hear him praise their products.
“I want to make a pledge to each and every one of you: No longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, steal our jobs and drain our wealth,” Trump said.
He was speaking to a trade show – albeit one with a protectionist bent – organized by the White House to spotlight his efforts to revive the flagging manufacturing sector.
Trump’s remarks came as his administration laid out its priorities for revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Trump is also reviewing options to restrict steel imports.
Trump did not give details about what his administration would do to protect manufacturers, but he railed against tariffs charged by other countries and unfair trade practices.
“That includes cracking down on the predatory online sales of foreign goods, which is absolutely killing our shoppers and our shopping centers,” he said.
“If you look at what is going on with shopping centers and stores and jobs and stores, it’s been very, very tough for them. They’ve have had a very hard time, closing at numbers and records that have never been seen before,” he said.
It was unclear what Trump meant by stopping “predatory online sales,” and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for more information on that subject.
Trump spoke in front of a panoply of iconic American-made products: Gibson guitars, Maryland crab pots, a Delaware-made NASA space suit and Cheerwine soda.
“Your drivers are very good,” Trump said to a representative of Ping, the Arizona-based maker of golf clubs, noting that he had golfed with British pro golfer Lee Westwood, who is a fan.
He discussed sales of Sikorsky helicopters – “I have three of them!” he said, lifted horseshoes made with Nucor Corp steel, and strolled past vacuum-sealed Omaha steaks.
He told the manufacturers that he was working for a “level playing field” for their wares.
“But if the playing field were slanted like a little bit toward us, I’d accept that also,” Trump said.