Trump dangles possibility of tilting playing field for U.S. companies

President Donald Trump pledged Monday to even the playing field for American companies, and to possibly even tilt it their way.

“It’s not fair to the United States, and that’s why I’m here. And I believe it’s one of the primary reasons you elected me and Mike — I mean, that’s why we’re here,” Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, said Monday at an East Room event celebrating American-made products to kick off the administration’s “Made in America” week.

“You’re gonna see one of the great differences, and you’re already seeing it, but it’s gonna get more so and more so,” Trump continued. “And we’re gonna end up having a level playing field. I don’t wanna say any more than level, but if the playing field were slanted like a little bit toward us, I’d accept that also.”

The White House chose this week to celebrate American-made products, inviting American companies representing each state Monday to allow the administration to highlight their “effort and commitment to” products manufactured domestically. Some brands, including Campbell’s Soup and Caterpillar, have representatives on the president’s business advisory council.

The latest theme, however, brought renewed emphasis to the president and first daughter’s respective businesses, which manufacture products abroad, accentuating a disconnect between the messenger and the message.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters during an off-camera briefing earlier Monday that “it’s inappropriate to discuss how anything would affect their own companies,” calling it “a little out of bounds.” But he nevertheless touted the president’s business acumen, hailing him as “a very successful businessman” who is uniquely positioned to relate to American business owners.

Trump opened his remarks by recalling how a man in charge of Omaha beef received him. The U.S. reached a deal last month allowing U.S. exports of beef to China.

“He hugged me,” Trump remarked. “He wanted to kiss me so badly because, he said: ‘Our business is a whole different business now because you got China approved. The other administrations couldn’t even come close.’”

Trump’s relatively brief remarks were largely a celebration of American companies as well as a celebration of his administration — in addition to his off-cuff comments. He claimed to have signed more bills than any president before him and praised executives who have “built names” he’s known of for a long time, much like he did.

“What a great job you’ve done,” Trump told one familiar face from the dais. “Thank you very much — and I saw you on television this morning. You were fantastic. I don’t know what you’re doing exactly, but you could always have a second career. You did a great job.”

He also vowed that the U.S. will no longer allow countries to break rules, steal American jobs and drain the nation’s wealth, promising “a lot of things” over the next six months, including, he said, “things announced that you won’t even believe.” He provided no details but suggested changes will occur “really quickly” because “the hard part is done.”

The administration’s emphasis on products made in America comes as the Senate delays voting on an Obamacare repeal deal, granting Arizona Sen. John McCain time to recover from surgery.

“I can tell you, we hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. He’s a crusty voice in Washington. Plus, we need his vote,” Trump said, prompting laughter from attendees. “We need that vote, and we need a number of votes because we do have to repeal Obamacare, and we will end up replacing it with something that is going to be outstanding — far, far better than failing Obamacare.”

Trump and Pence visited a number of heavy machines that decorated the South Lawn before delivering remarks. The U.S. machinery included a yacht, a fork lift, an excavator and even a fire truck.

“I saw some incredible machinery,” Trump later noted.

Before the event, though, reporters observed Trump interacting with a fire engine. “Where’s the fire?” he asked Pence, who held open the door to the truck as the president climbed inside. “I’ll put it out.”

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