- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

DEARBORN, Mich. — President Bush said yesterday that strong manufacturing activity indicates a recovering economy, hours before U.S. stock indexes surged to 2003 highs.

“Our economy is strong, and it is getting stronger,” the president said at a fund-raising event. “Our manufacturing sector is getting stronger.”

Mr. Bush noted that the Institute for Supply Management yesterday reported that its manufacturing index soared to 62.8 last month — its best reading in 20 years.

“Figures for the third quarter were recently revised upward to an annual growth rate of 8.2 percent. That’s the fastest growth rate in nearly 20 years. Today the purchasing managers’ index came out, which shows that our manufacturing sector is getting stronger,” he said.

Taking a bit of credit, Mr. Bush said his tax cuts helped “hardworking Americans” along with the economy.

By the end of the day, the Dow Jones industrials pushed closer to the 10,000 level, climbing 116 points to 9,899 on the manufacturing news. Indications of a strong kickoff to the Christmas shopping season also helped Wall Street.

In Canton, Mich., where Mr. Bush held a round table with employees of a small business involved in the steel industry, the president said the mechanics of the economy are in place for a strong recovery.

“When people have more money in their pocket, it means they’re going to demand an additional good or a service, or likely demand a good or a service. And when that happens in our economy, somebody will produce it,” he said.

“And when somebody produces the good or a service to meet the demand, somebody is more likely to find a job. And so not only did the tax relief help hardworking Americans, with the pressures on their families and education needs, but it also helped the economy,” he said.

But the manufacturing sector, which makes up a sixth of the economy, has a long way to go: More than 2 million jobs have been lost in the sector since Mr. Bush took office in January 2001.

The president, whose motorcade traveled past the Ford Motor Co., did not announce yesterday whether he plans to rescind tariffs he levied on imported steel last year.

“The president still has not made a decision,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One. “It remains under review. And beyond that, I don’t want to speculate on the timing of any decision. … He’ll make a decision, as he previously did, based on what is right for the American people.”

But White House officials said on the condition of anonymity that the president is likely to approve a recommendation by advisers to lift most of the tariffs by Friday — several days before the European Union is expected to retaliate on $2.2 billion worth of U.S. exports.

Some officials said the president may retain a few tariffs for several months but that the main tariffs would be rescinded.

Mr. Bush, who left the Rust Belt midday and attended an evening fund-raiser in Whippany, N.J., is scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh today. He is not likely to issue a decision until after he attends that fund-raiser at the Westin Convention Center. U.S. Steel Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Usher is the co-host of the event.

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