President Trump

President Donald Trump has lauded products that are made in the US and expanded domestic-manufacturing rules — even as his trade policies continued to hammer companies across the country. 

Speaking at a “Made in America” showcase on the White House South Lawn, Trump said his administration is “restoring our economic independence and reawakening our industrial might.” He used the third annual event to roll out an executive order that would increase the requirements for federal purchases of US products. 

The new law requests that steel and aluminum companies use 95% US sourcing for federal contracts — and 75% for other products — to qualify. Currently, the minimum is 50%. 

The president defended his ongoing trade wars, saying that his decision to levy steep duties on several of the US’s largest trading partners would level the playing field in the global market. That was met warmly by the dozens of company representatives selected to attend the event — one from each state. 

“We keep you guys in our prayers. We love you. We support you,” one of the company representatives said to Vice President Mike Pence, according to a White House pool report.

But other businesses across the US have grown frustrated at protectionist policies that have come to shape the Trump presidency, including $250 billion worth of tariffs on the second-largest economy. That has led to retaliatory measures and cast a high degree of uncertainty on American companies and consumers.

Firms competing on the basis of cost or that require easy access to a broad array of components — for example in the electronics industry in China — face significant challenges repatriating supply chains and products to the US, said Brian Keare, the field chief information officer at Incorta.

“Companies that have been hit by the tariff wars of the past year generally see few similarities with companies showcasing at Trump’s ‘Made in America’ event,” said Keare, who advises businesses like Broadcom, Starbucks, and Apple. 

The US and China have restarted trade negotiations since they stalled in May, when the Trump administration said that Beijing had reneged on past commitments. Yet the two sides remained far apart on key issues, including intellectual property laws and means of enforcing them.

Hundreds of companies testified against the sprawling trade disputes last month after Trump threatened to slap tariffs on virtually all remaining imports from China. Many of them warned that move would act as a tax on Americans and that moving production would be time-consuming and costly.

“American firms stay competitive by combining foreign-made and less costly components with the efforts of US workers and US technology,” said Mary Lovely, a trade scholar at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “By levying tariffs on imports of parts and components, as President Trump has done repeatedly, this Administration harms American manufacturers and their workers.”

Also on Monday, Trump falsely asserted that the US “didn’t lose anything by the fact that China targeted our farmers.”

In fact, soybean and corn growers have borne the brunt of those trade policies, losing access to their biggest customer after China retaliated against the Trump administration with a steep tariff on agricultural products. Farm exports were expected to fall by nearly $1.9 billion in 2019.

“We produce an excess so we have to have access to international markets as well that’s vitally important and why these trade issues are such a huge concern,” said Dave Walton, a soybean grower in Wilton, Iowa. “I think we’ve grown accustomed to being given some hope ahead of these meetings and then nothing happens or we go backwards.”