President Donald Trump inspected products brought to the White House on Monday from all 50 U.S. states to launch his “Made In America Week.”
On display from the easternmost state of Maine was a yacht. From the distant shores of Hawaii, more than 7,500 kilometers from the nation’s capital, there was a bottle of rum.
Even Marine One, the presidential helicopter, was turned into an expensive prop to tout Connecticut manufacturing.
The president hopped into a Wisconsin firetruck.
“Where’s the fire? I’ll put it out,” he asked as Vice President Mike Pence looked on and press secretary Sean Spicer snapped photos.
Highlighting US manufacturing prowess
Minutes later, Trump signed a proclamation declaring July 17 as Made in America Day, saying the “hard part now is done,” because his administration has removed regulatory barriers.
“For decades Washington has allowed other nations to wipe out millions of American jobs through unfair trade practices,” said the president to representatives of the featured businesses from 50 states. “Wait ‘till you see what is up for you. You are going to be so happy.”
The latest weekly-themed campaign of the six-month-old Trump administration (and there are more to come in the next few weeks) is meant to highlight the importance of U.S. manufacturing and tout its policies to bring more such jobs back from overseas.
Amid the continuing pursuit of health care legislation and the growing investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, another themed week should have come as a welcome and positive distraction.
Monday’s launch, however, was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that many, if not most, of the Trump family business products are made in foreign factories.
Steel and aluminum to build some of the most recent Trump hotels in the U.S. came from China. Much of the merchandise sold in those hotels, as well as the president’s private golf courses, are of foreign origin.
What about Trump products?
The Democratic National Committee calls the domestic promotion campaign “the epitome of hypocrisy,” saying the president, instead of lecturing, should try setting an example.
“If you’re going to preach something, start at home, start at home,” said Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party's leader in the Senate. “Trump shirts and ties: where are they made? China. Trump furniture: where is it made? Turkey.”
The clothing line carrying daughter Ivanka Trump’s name is also made overseas. That point was repeatedly raised by reporters at Monday’s off-camera White House press briefing.
“Some products may not have the scalability or the demand here in this country,” acknowledged Spicer. “But like so many other things, if that demand – if there is enough of demand then hopefully somebody builds a factory and does it.”
Globalization makes 'Made in...' obsolete
Trade analysts say it is not that simple, because we are now in an interconnected global economy.
“The factory floor has broken through its walls and now spans borders and oceans,” said Daniel Ikenson, who directs trade policy studies at a libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. “So things, a final good on an American retail store shelf, tends to have components, value-added, in five, six, 10 countries.”
While internationalists acknowledge there is a problem with Americans displaced from their jobs by technological changes or trade treaties, “The way to address that is not to compel people to buy American. The way to address that is to get rid of the frictions in the labor market that will make it easier for people to adjust to the new conditions,” Ikenson told VOA.
White House policymakers are undeterred by such arguments, pursuing their protectionist agenda. It seeks to reverse decades of work by administrations of both parties - supported by major U.S. business groups -- to promote international commerce and trade agreements.