As President Donald Trump headed to Asia for a 13-day trip, his trade representative said the White House’s job is not to appease Wall Street or U.S. companies with major factories located in Mexico and China, but to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs and wage growth.
“Many of these [U.S. manufacturing] workers haven’t had a raise in 10 years,” said Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s trade representative, speaking Friday night on “The Ingraham Angle” on Fox News. “They deserve a break. The last thing we should be doing would be ensuring, guaranteeing, subsidizing investments in another [foreign] market. It makes no sense.”
Laura Ingraham pressed Lighthizer on Wall Street demands that big companies need "certainty" so they can conduct stable business. Such pleas echo the arguments of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Wall Street Journal, noted Ingraham, the founding editor of LifeZette.
Lighthizer said his concern is for workers, not manufacturing overseas.
"My reaction to that is, that's not my job," he told Ingraham in the East Room of the White House. "My job is trying to create manufacturing jobs in America, and to put upward pressure on people's wages ... By the way, in the case of automobiles, 80 percent of [Mexico-produced] cars, 80 percent are shipped back to America."
"So they are manufactured in Mexico, shipped here, with no tariff?" Ingraham asked.
"That's the point," said Lighthizer.
Lighthizer said previous efforts to balance free trade and the needs of American workers have not worked, especially since 1995, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took full force among Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
"The reality is: The president wants efficient markets," he said. "The president wants open, fair, reciprocal, balanced trade, but we don't have that. Everybody knows that. So the question is, what do you do? Do you buy a rabbit's foot, cross your fingers, make the sign of the cross? Do you do that, or do you have a strategy where you are going to use every tool America has to ensure that our workers and our farmers get a fair shake?"
The United States has a $350 billion trade imbalance with China alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ingraham said Trump and Lighthizer will face the inevitable charge that the administration is starting a trade war with China or Mexico if it presses its case too hard.
"We are not starting a trade war at all," said Lighthizer. "We have exactly the same objective as the Chamber of Commerce. Exactly the same objective. The question is, how do we get there? We tried it their way for 25 years. Since at least 1995, we tried it their way. All I am saying is, let's try a different route for a little bit."
Lighthizer said unchecked free trade has led to a $750 billion trade deficit, on goods, with the rest of the world.
"I mean, these are staggering numbers," he said. "We ought to try something else ... We will end up with more global wealth. It's going to be fine for businesses, but most importantly it's going to be fine for American workers and American farmers who need a break."
Last Modified: November 4, 2017, 6:01 pm