Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of Congress, and Members of the Cabinet in Meeting on Trade | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

    Issued on: February 13, 2018  •  Cabinet Room

    THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thank you very much. I'm delighted to welcome both Republicans and Democrats. Nice sound. Isn't that a nice sound? And we won't be discussing DACA, but there's plenty of discussion right now going on about DACA from both the House and the Senate, to the White House.

    We're here today to discuss a matter of vital importance to our nation's economy and security, and I've been discussing it for years. And I've certainly discussed it in great detail on the campaign trail. That's America's aluminum and steel industries, and many other industries where we are taken advantage of by other countries. And I alluded to it yesterday, too.

    Last year, I directed the Secretary of Commerce to investigate whether steel and aluminum imports are threatening to impair U.S. national security. You see what's happened with our steel and aluminum industries. They're being decimated by dumping from many countries, in particular one, but many countries. They're dumping and destroying our industry and destroying the families of workers. And we can't let that happen.

    Secretary Ross submitted the result of the investigations to me last month. My administration is now reviewing the reports and considering all options. And part of the options would be tariffs coming in. As they dump steel, they pay tariffs - substantial tariffs - which means the United States would actually make a lot of money, and probably our steel industry and our aluminum industry would come back into our country. Right now, it's decimated.

    It'll make a decision, and I will make a decision that reflects the best interests of the United States, including the need to address overproduction in China and other countries. You have countries that are so overproducing, and what they're doing is they are dumping it on us. And you look at empty factories, steel factories, and plants, and it's a very sad thing to look at.

    I've been watching - I've been looking at them for two years, as I went around campaigning. No matter where you go, you look at them and see what happened to U.S. Steel and these other companies. They were the giants and now they're hanging on for their life.

    I look forward to hearing your views, and I'd like to have some of you speak. And you have very strong - I know, Roy, you do, and we all do, probably, have pretty strong views on this.

    I look at it two ways: I want to keep prices down, but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and aluminum industry, and we do need that for national defense. If we ever have a conflict, we don't want to be buying the steel from a country that we're fighting because somehow that doesn't work very well.

    But we hopefully won't have any conflicts, but we still have to consider that. And we have to look at the national defense, and we have to look at a steel industry. We cannot be without a steel industry. We cannot be without an aluminum industry. And so what we're talking about is tariffs and/or quotas.

    I think maybe, Roy, would you like to start? We've discussed this over the past. Do you have any suggestion?

    SENATOR BLUNT: Well, Mr. President, I think we do need to be careful here that we don't start a reciprocal battle on tariffs. You know, we make aluminum and we make steel in Missouri, but we buy a lot of aluminum and we buy a lot of steel as well -

    THE PRESIDENT: That's right.

    SENATOR BLUNT: - from bass boats to beer cans. There's a lot of aluminum out there. We've got an aluminum manufacturer that closed down, but with special electric rates is reopening under new management.

    And so, clearly, we're concerned about those new jobs, but also concerned about all the jobs - whether it's in the electric steel area or the aluminum area, are very, very price sensitive here.

    THE PRESIDENT: Good. And I understand that very well. One thing I just - I do want to tell you, we just got this notice. General Motors in Korea announces the first step in necessary restructuring. They're going to - GM Korea company announced today that it will cease production and close its Gunsan plant in May of 2018, and they're going to move back to Detroit.

    You don't hear these things, except for the fact that Trump became President. Believe me, you wouldn't be hearing that. So they're moving back from Korea to Detroit. They're moving.

    Also, you saw Chrysler moving from Mexico to Michigan. And you have many other companies. They all want to be where the action is. The big tax cuts had a big impact. And Kevin knows that maybe better than anybody. But it had a big impact on that decision.

    But when you see that General Motors - we have a very bad trade deal with Korea. Very, very bad trade deal. It's a deal that - it's incompetent that somebody could have made a deal like that.

    So we have a horrible trade deal with Korea. But now, even before we do something with that - because we're negotiating the trade deal with Korea, and we'll either negotiate a fair deal or we're going to terminate the deal. But before we do that, already General Motors is coming back into Detroit. That is a really significant statement. Many others to follow from many other countries.

    Mike, go ahead.

    REPRESENTATIVE BOST: Mr. President, let me tell you that 2,800 people were laid off in my district in 2015, in a steel plant that's been operating for over 100 years. The concern that we have is, is that steel plant produces what's known as the oil country tubular goods - OCTG.

    OCTG, when we're doing the expiration, and everything like that, in oil that we are - but Korea has dumped 200 percent in the last year in an overabundance into that particular market. Because of that, we're not able to get those 2,800 jobs back. And like I said, those have been there. That group of people there -

    THE PRESIDENT: So where did it go? It went to Korea?

    REPRESENTATIVE BOST: All of the products that - they're even coming from Korea now that we've turned up. And unless we use the power under 232 - because if something goes south, now all of a sudden, while we're trying to become energy independent - but these plants don't turn up overnight, and we've got to try to do something to work for a long-term goal with that.

    THE PRESIDENT: The Korean Agreement - as you know, Mike, and most of the people at this table - that was done by the last administration. It was supposed to produce 150,000 to 200,000 jobs. And it did - for Korea. For us, it produced nothing but losses. It's a horrible deal. All you have to do is look at it. You know it's going to be bad.

    So the Korea deal was a disaster. It was supposed to be good for us, and it turned out to be very bad for us. And just - you know, you're one example of it, but there are many examples all over the country. So I just think that General Motors moving back into Detroit is just a fantastic thing. That's just a sign of many other companies to come.

    Mike Pence, would you have something to say?

    THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I just want to thank all of the Republican and Democrats taking time to be here and their profound interest in this issue.

    To your point, this is about our economy, but it's about national security. And the President directed a 232 review to determine whether or not our national security has been affected by the dumping of steel and aluminum.

    And today, it is very much the President's desire, our administration's desire to hear from each of you and the perspectives that will also inform the decisions that the President will make.

    I think that it's fair to say that we all support national security. I think that's evidenced by the recent budget agreement that the President helped drive, and Republicans and Democrats have supported, for a historic increase in our national defense.

    But we also all support American jobs. And we very much look forward to your counsel as the President approaches this decision, and I appreciate the bipartisan spirit of this meeting and the conversation that will follow.

    THE PRESIDENT: And really, as Mike said, I want to hear from both sides. We have a lot of great representatives, both Democrats and Republicans. I want to hear from both sides before we make the decision.

    In one case, you're going to create jobs. You may have a higher price or maybe a little bit higher, but you're going to have jobs. In the other case, you may have a lower price, but you're not going have jobs; it's going to be made in China and other places. So those are big decisions. But, to me, jobs are very important.

    Todd, do you have something to say?

    SENATOR YOUNG: Mr. President, thank you for having us here today. I represent a state that is not only a major manufacturer of steel - we have U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal, and others who are manufacturing it - but we have the downstream users, which you alluded to. So, clearly, you understand the need to balance the two, to come up with a balanced approach here.

    I think the main target - and I'll just speak plainly with you, sir - should be China. They're violating the international rules, stealing our intellectual property, overproducing steel products and other products. And -

    THE PRESIDENT: We've spoken to them very, very strongly. We've told them. We have something coming up in the very near future that you know. But we have told them it just can't continue.

    We have a trade deficit with China - that I inherited, by the way - but we have a trade deficit of $504 billion, okay? So, if you think of it, when you look at how well they do, and how many bridges they're building, and how many jets they're building, and fighter planes - we did it. We did it. People that sat in my seat allowed them to do this.

    So we're not going to allow that. We're talking to them right now, very strongly. And hopefully we'll have a great relationship, but we're talking to them very strongly, Todd. You're right - it's a big percentage of our deficits. And the money that we've lost and the jobs that we've lost to China, it's unthinkable that people allowed that to happen.

    And this is over a period - not just Obama. This is over a period of many years this has happened.

    So thank you very much, Todd.

    Pat, would you like to say something?

    SENATOR TOOMEY: Sure. Thanks very much, Mr. President. I would just urge us to go very, very cautiously here, especially with section 232.

    As you know, our defense needs consume about 3 percent of domestic steel consumption. So I think it's implausible to believe that we're not able to meet the needs of our defense industry, which is absolutely essential.

    Imports in 2016 were 16 percent of domestic consumption. So the vast majority of the steel we consume, we in fact produce ourselves - which is the way I prefer it, and it is the case today. China was down to 2 percent of the 16 percent, so a very, very small portion.

    My main message -

    THE PRESIDENT: But they have transshipping.

    SENATOR TOOMEY: Absolutely. So -

    THE PRESIDENT: They would ship to other countries, and their steel would come in from other countries so that you can't see where the steel is coming from.

    SENATOR TOOMEY: Right. So what I would urge is, any country that is violating our trade laws and our trade agreements, go after them. Countervailing duty and the dumping, if that's happening.

    THE PRESIDENT: That's all countries. That's all countries.

    SENATOR TOOMEY: But the 232 is a different matter, and invoking national security, when I think it's really hard to make that case, invites retaliation that will be problematic for us.

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, the word "retaliation," Pat, is interesting. And I know you agree with this. We have so many countries where we made a product, they make a product, they pay a tremendous - we pay a tremendous tax to get into their countries - motorcycles, Harley Davidson - it goes into a certain country. I won't mention the fact that it happens to be India, in this case. (Laughter.)

    And a great gentleman called me from India and he said, we have just reduced the tariff on motorcycles, reduced it down to 50 percent - 5-0 - from 75, and even 100 percent. And we have - if you are Harley Davidson, you have 50 to 75 percent tax, tariff to get your motorcycle, your product in. And yet they sell thousands and thousands of motorcycles, which a lot of people don't know, from India into the United States. You know what our tax is? Nothing.

    So I say we should have reciprocal taxes for a case like that. I'm not blaming India. I think it's great that they can get away with it. I don't know why people allowed them to get away with it. But there's an example that's very unfair. And I think we should have a reciprocal tax.

    That's called fair trade. It's called free trade. Because ultimately, what's going to happen - either we'll collect the same that they're collecting, or, probably, what happens is they'll end up not charging a tax and we won't have a tax. And that becomes free trade.

    So we have too many examples like that. And the word "reciprocal," as Pat said - I mean, the world "reciprocal" is a very important word. We have countries that are taking advantage of us. They're charging us massive tariffs for us to sell our product into those countries. And when they sell to us, zero. We charge them zero. We're like the stupid people, and I don't like to have that anymore.

    So we're going to change that, and we're going to make it fair. And that, I call that fair trade. And, again, one of two things will happen. But I think what's going to happen is they'll just reduce their tax to the same as our tax.

    Mike, would you like to say something?

    SENATOR LEE: Yeah, sure. One of the things that worries me with regard to this proposed action is that there's so many things manufactured in the United States; there's so many jobs attached to so many things manufactured in the United States that use steel and aluminum as inputs.

    Now in the case of steel, we're talking about 16 percent that's imported. But the availability of those imports and the absence of additional duties on those means that those goods can be manufactured and sold more cost effectively. That keeps a whole lot of people, including a whole lot of voters in each of our states - a whole lot in mine, certainly - in jobs.

    And so, even though there may be some job winners from an action like this, I strongly suspect that, as has at times been the case in the past, you would end up with net job losses in the United States. And that's what worries me here, particularly in light of the absence of what I can see as a real national security threat. Only 3 percent of what we're able to produce domestically is what's needed for our national security reasons, and I think that ought to be taken into account.
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