- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2017

Meeting with two dozen manufacturing CEOs, President Trump said Thursday that he is determined to bring back thousands more “real jobs” to the U.S. and to cut trade deficits with countries such as Mexico and China.

“Everything’s going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs, the real jobs,” the president said at a listening session at the White House. “I’m delivering on everything that we’ve said.”

The president also spoke favorably about an export-boosting border adjustment tax proposed by Republicans in Congress, but he did not specifically endorse it. He called the proposal at the heart of a Republican tax overhaul plan “too complicated” while also saying it was “on the table.”

“It could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States,” Mr. Trump told Reuters in an interview, using his most positive language to date on the proposal. “I certainly support a form of tax on the border. What is going to happen is companies are going to come back here, they’re going to build their factories and they’re going to create a lot of jobs and there’s no tax.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the tax would be a good incentive for companies to remain in the U.S. rather than moving out and trying to reimport their products.

“There’s a big cost to our economy and to our workers” by relocating outside the U.S., he said.

In the White House meeting, as the business leaders around the conference table introduced themselves, Mr. Trump praised Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson for cutting costs on F-35 fighter jet production. The president also teased the defense contractor that she would have had an easier job if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the presidency.

“What you did was the right thing, so we appreciate it,” the president told Ms. Hewson, adding that “she cut her price over $700 million.”

“Do you think Hillary would have asked for $700 million?” Mr. Trump asked her. “I assume you wanted her to win. You’re going to do great, and you’re going to make more planes. It’s going to work out the same or better.”

The Lockheed chief smiled and invited Mr. Trump to visit a plant where the fighter jets are made.

Prior to the meeting, the Business Roundtable sent the White House economic team a wish list of Obama-era regulations that business leaders want to roll back, including a rule expanding overtime pay, the Clean Power Plan and an expansion of the EPA’s jurisdiction over waterways.

Mr. Trump said his administration is committed to turning around decades of U.S. trade imbalances and bad trade deals.

“The United States lost one-third of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. That’s an unbelievable number,” Mr. Trump said. “Seventy thousand factories closed since China joined the [World Trade Organization]. The deals we have with other countries are unbelievably bad. I’m trying to find a country where we actually have a surplus of trade; everything’s a deficit.”

He said the $70 billion trade deficit with Mexico is unsustainable.

“We can’t let it happen. We’re going to have a good relationship with Mexico, I hope. If we don’t, we don’t. But we can’t let that happen,” he said.

The president praised companies such as Intel, Ford, General Motors, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Carrier for announcements either to expand investment in the U.S. or bring back jobs from elsewhere.

“My administration’s policies and regularity reform, tax reform, trade policies, will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country,” Mr. Trump said.

Among the companies represented were U.S. Steel, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Caterpillar, Ford, General Dynamics and Dell Technologies.

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris told Mr. Trump, “Thank you for bringing the language of business back to the White House.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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