President Trump touted the economy Monday at a White House event showcasing American-made merchandise, even as some members of the manufacturing industry worried that the president's trade policies threaten recent progress.
At the second annual "Made in America" event, the president strolled among snowboards from Colorado, cowboy boots made in Texas and campers from Indiana — all required to be “ ‘all or virtually all’ made in the U.S.” Trump toured an RV camper manufactured by Indiana-based Newmar Corp. and looked at Ford's Model T to the F-150, which he said were beautiful.
Trump called present-day America a time of "great economic revival in the United States,” crediting the shift in growth to his policies, tax cuts and deregulation.
The Trump administration boasted of creating 8.7 million jobs since the 2016 election. The president also crowed that the country has seen historically low unemployment numbers for African American, Asian and Hispanic communities (there are caveats, as The Post's Philip Bump pointed out in June). Manufacturing jobs are also on the up and up, according to Trump, who said that since his taking office there have been 370,000 manufacturing jobs, which is 25,000 more than the figures released by the White House.
National Association of Manufacturers chief economist Chad Moutray agreed, in part, with Trump.
“Manufacturers are more optimistic than any time in modern history," Moutray said to The Washington Post. "Pro-growth tax and regulatory reform has given manufacturers the confidence to hire more workers, raise wages and increase investments."
The 2018 Second Quarter Manufacturers' Outlook Survey registered positivity at 95.1 percent, the highest it's been in 20 years. Following the regulatory changes, CEOs throughout the country, including at Lockheed Martin, Alabama's Sabel Steel and North Carolina's Atlantic Packaging, planned to reinvest savings, expand facilities and increase employee salaries, according to NAM's Tax Reform Survey.
Manufacturing wages, Trump said, are the highest they have been in 17 years.
But, Moutray cautioned, a trade war would set recent progress back.
"To ensure this strong growth continues, the administration needs to pursue a sound trade policy that opens up markets and eliminates barriers, as well as make certain provisions of the new tax law permanent,” he said.
Trump blamed past administrations for the loss of manufacturing jobs. “They let our factories leave, they let our people lose their jobs to workers in faraway lands,” he said on Monday. “That’s not free trade. That’s fools’ trade.”
Despite his rebuke, his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump outsources all of her company’s manufacturing to foreign countries with low-wage labor. The president has similarly been accused of failing to follow the policies he touts, outsourcing labor internationally.
To counteract years of what Trump calls unfavorable trade deals, he claimed he's campaigned abroad for free, fair and reciprocal trade and is engaged in ongoing talks with the European Union, with Mexico regarding NAFTA and with China, which had a $375 billion trade surplus last year, according to Trump. He has also placed steel tariffs on foreign countries.
The Post's Heather Long reported that these efforts have not remedied the problem.
"Trump is now engaged in trade fights with most of the world’s major economies, including China, the European Union and Japan. Although Trump speaks periodically with leaders from these nations, formal trade talks have stalled with most of them as the two sides remain far apart and foreign countries say Trump’s wishes are unclear."
In recent months, as Trump continued hiking American tariffs, foreign countries have begun responding with retaliatory tactics or threats. Hallmark American brands, like Harley-Davidson and General Motors, have joined the wrangle, too, warning the president of what they stand to lose if he refused to soften his stance. Harley-Davidson has since decided to transfer some production overseas because of the impact of threatened tariffs.
Still, Trump has not backed away.
“America never waves the white flag. We only wave the red, white and blue flag. The era of economic surrender for the United States is over,” Trump said. “America is fighting back and we’re winning again.”
The room erupted in applause. Trump filed out of the room and the band began a brassy rendition of "God Bless America."