Manufacturers are on Trump's agenda

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U.S. manufacturing took center stage during President Trump’s first full work day, with Reuters reporting that Trump told a Jan. 23 morning gathering of top CEOs that he would slash regulations and cut general corporate taxes, but also tax imports if companies move production outside the U.S.

Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris told reporters that the president asked the CEOs to present him with a series of actions within 30 days to boost manufacturing.

Liveris, who was named in December to chair a new manufacturing council, said that “the conversation honed in on tax, regulatory and trade.”

The president invited the CEOs to the meeting and told them he wanted to “cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more,” and promised the companies fast approval of any plans for U.S. factories.

As well, Trump on Jan. 23 officially withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The meeting included CEOs of large U.S. companies, including Ford, Dell, Tesla, Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, and others.

In comments to reporters, the CEOs generally praised the discussion.

Jay Timmons, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, who also attended the meeting, wrote on twitter that Trump “sent a strong message of his commitment” to manufacturing by holding the meeting on his first full business day in office.

It will be interesting to see what specifics will come from the recommendations that Liveris said the CEOs have been tasked with delivering.

I imagine the room could broadly agree on regulations to cut, but trade is an area where it seems there’s still major differences between the Trump administration and the large U.S. manufacturers in that room.

As we’ve reported, the plastics industry’s trade associations share those concerns.

In an early January webinar, Bill Carteaux, CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, said that the industry welcomed regulatory rollbacks but had concerns about trade and said that manufacturers would be fighting a “rear guard action on trade issues” with the White House.

As well, I think the realities of increasing automation in factories will pose challenges for the Trump administration’s focus on manufacturing jobs. Some studies have argued that more than 80 percent of job losses in manufacturing have been because of automation, rather than trade.

Toloken is news editor-international for Plastics News and author of the BRICS and Plastics blog. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Toloken.