Trump to CEOs: ‘Real jobs’ have to come back to U.S.

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — President Donald Trump met Thursday with his manufacturing board of 24 CEOs from American companies in Washington, including Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields, Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris and Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig.

Trump said at the start of the meeting with the executives, which was broadcast live on the White House’s Facebook page, that he is moving to increase domestic manufacturing as part of his campaign pledge to boost the U.S. economy.

“Bringing manufacturing back to America, creating high-wage jobs was one of our campaign promises and themes, and it resonated with everybody,” he said. “I’m delivering on everything that I said. In fact, people are saying they’ve never seen so much happen in 30 days of a presidency. We’ve delivered on a lot.”

Trump spotlighted Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors Co., Wal-Mart, Carrier, Amazon and Intel as companies who had moved to bring jobs back to the U.S. since his election, among others.

“Mark has been great,” he said referring to Ford’s Fields. “Fiat, they came the other day. They’re going to make a tremendous investment in the country.

“Ford is doing $700 million in Michigan, creating 700 new jobs as a vote of confidence,” Trump added. “It was actually stated a vote of confidence. We have many other companies doing the same thing ... General Motors is investing $1 billion in U.S. plants, adding or keeping 7,000 jobs and is going to be investing a lot more than that over the next fairly short period.”

Trump reiterated his campaign promise to renegotiate trade deals that he says have hampered the U.S. economy like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

As a candidate, Trump seized upon discontent with NAFTA, which eliminated tariffs on most goods produced in North America. The trade deal has been blamed for auto companies moving production of smaller cars to Mexico.

Trump said trade deficits with Mexico and China are unsustainable for the U.S. economy.

“With Mexico, we have $70 billion in trade deficits,” he said. “It’s unsustainable and we’re not going to let it happen. We can’t let it happen. We’re going to have a good relationship with Mexico, I hope. And if we don’t, we don’t, but we can’t let that happen.

“With China we have close to a $500 billion trade deficit. So we have to do something... I actually said to my people, ‘Find a country where we actually do well.’ So far we haven’t found that country. It’s just losses with everybody, and we’re going to turn that around.”

As Field left the White House on Thursday, he said the meeting with Trump was “productive.”

Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said in an email, “Mark participated in the working group on tax, and he is very encouraged the administration has placed such a high priority on tax reform.”

Dow Chemical’s Liveris added during an interview with Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto that the meeting with Trump was “very constructive.” He said Trump was “very engaged, very business-oriented, very open to new ideas.

“We’re getting along absolutely very well,” he said. “When I was asked to this, clearly what the president has is this ability to move forward. He doesn’t look back. He looks at what’s possible. And obviously he’s got this amazing opportunity to get many of us engaged, whether we we were friend or foe, for or against, doesn’t matter. That’s all in the rear-view mirror.”

Trump promised the CEOs who were gathered at the White House on Thursday that he will continue to try to boost U.S. manufacturing during his tenure.

“Some of the things that we’re doing for the auto industry, we’re going to be doing for many of the industries,” he said.

“My administration’s policies, regulatory reform, tax reform, trade policies will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country,” Trump continued. “Everything is going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs. The real jobs. They’ve left and they’re coming back. They have to come back.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing

Staff Writer Ian Thibodeau contributed.