President Donald Trump signed an order Tuesday requiring tougher enforcement of rules governing the hiring of foreign workers in the United States and a tightening of the requirement that U.S. government agencies use American-made products.
While visiting a tool manufacturer in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, Trump said: "We don't have a level field for [American] workers. We're going to send a message to the world that we are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs. America first, you better believe it."
Senior administration officials said lax enforcement and many legal loopholes mean American workers and companies lose jobs and business to foreign competition, which hurts the U.S. economy.
Trump signed the order related to government agencies even though he built a global business empire before running for the White House in which he regularly outsourced the manufacture of dozens of consumer products to overseas locations. Trump-branded products, including ties, suits, dress shirts, furniture, bedding, vodka, home goods and accessories for his luxury hotels, have all been manufactured outside the United States.
Some of Trump's products are made in the U.S., but overall, his goods are made in 12 countries, including China, Mexico, India and Germany.
Business holdings retained
As president, Trump has held on to ownership of his vast real estate and business holdings despite complaints from ethics experts, who say he should divest himself of those financial interests to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Trump has turned over management of his business empire to his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and says he will have no contact with them about their business decisions.
Under Trump's order, part of a "Buy American/Hire American" plan, government agencies are being directed to review their procurement practices and require that exceptions to the "buy American" rules be approved by the heads of those agencies.
Officials also said government procurement portions of existing trade agreements would be reviewed to see whether U.S. companies get the same chance to sell products to the governments of U.S. trading partners that foreign firms get in Washington.
Another review is aimed at rules governing visas issued to foreigners with certain skills that are in demand (H-1-B visas). The program is supposed to help employers attract foreign workers with skills that are scarce in the United States. Trump administration officials say they are concerned that companies are hiring foreigners who do the same work as Americans at lower wages.
"This will stop," Trump vowed.
Government agencies are being directed to conduct "top to bottom" reviews of these rules and laws, and report problems and recommendations that could bring about changes.