U.S. President Donald Trump met Thursday with chief executives of some of the country's biggest manufacturers, praising their efforts to add jobs in the U.S. and vowing to bring back jobs that corporate America has moved to other countries in search of cheaper labor.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House in Washington, Feb. 23, 2017. From left are, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, and Ford CEO Mark Fields.
"My administration’s policies and regulatory reform, tax reform, trade policies, will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country," Trump said at the White House meeting.
"Everything’s going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs, the real jobs," he said. "They’ve left, and they’re coming back. They have to come back.”
More than 12 million U.S. workers hold manufacturing jobs, but the country has lost five million such jobs since 2000, sometimes to automation, but also to other countries as corporate executives look to cut their employment costs by moving jobs to places where workers are paid less than they are in the United States.
Trump went around a conference table as 24 corporate chieftains introduced themselves, telling Marillyn Hewson, the chairman and chief executive of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, that he appreciated the company's agreement to cut the cost of building the country's new F-35 stealth fighter jets.
"She's tough, but it worked out well I think for everybody," Trump said. "And I think — I have to say this, Marillyn, you've gotten a lot of credit because what you did was the right thing. So we appreciate it. She cut her price over $700 million, right? By over $700 million."
Then, recalling his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in last November's presidential election, Trump said, "Do you think Hillary would have asked for $700 million? Oh, boy. I hope you — I assume you wanted her to win."
As the manufacturing executives laughed at his remark, Trump told Hewson, "But you know what? You're going to do great. And you're going to make more planes. It's going to work out the same or better."
When chief executive Denise Morrison of the Campbell Soup Company introduced herself, Trump gave his pithy assessment of her company's products, "Good soup."
Corporate leaders from defense contractor General Dynamics, U.S. Steel, General Electric, carmaker Ford Motor, appliance manufacturer Whirlpool, pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and others were among those meeting with Trump, now in his second month in office.