WASHINGTON — Monday was the start of “Made in America Week” at the White House, a celebration of U.S. industry and products. Along with a showcase of goods made in each of the 50 states, the event came with questions about the wide selection of products President Trump’s family businesses source from overseas factories.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer began his briefing on Monday afternoon by framing the celebration as fulfilling the president’s promise to “deliver for America’s workers.” As further evidence, Spicer cited Trump’s executive order to “maximize … the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.” Spicer described that order as a “historic action” though it has been criticized as a piece of political theater that does not include any quantifiable definition of what it would mean to “maximize” American production or how long it will take to accomplish.
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Yahoo News asked Spicer if the White House push for products to be “Made in America” will include commitments from the companies run by Trump’s immediate family.
The Trump Organization, which produces products that bear the “Trump” brand and the names of the president’s real-estate ventures, has a long history of producing its wares overseas. Last year, the Washington Post conducted an examination and found that the products made abroad by the Trump Organization include shirts, glasses, cologne, housewares and vodka. To mark “Made in America” week, the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein perused the gift shop at Trump’s Washington hotel and found goods from China, Vietnam and Peru. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who is a White House adviser, has her own clothing line that relies heavily on poorly paid foreign labor.
Spicer responded to the question about the Trump family’s businesses making products abroad by saying the president’s agenda of “regulatory relief” and “tax relief” is dedicated to making sure “that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here.” He added it would be “inappropriate” for him to discuss how anything would affect the Trump family’s businesses from the White House. However, he implied there were certain factors that made it much easier for companies to take certain business abroad.
“With respect to his own companies, obviously it’s inappropriate to discuss how anything would affect their own companies. But I can tell you that, in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country,” Spicer said.
Spicer also suggested Trump is working to change that situation.
“I’m not going to comment on specific products, but I will tell you that the overall, arching goal, of course, though, is to grow manufacturing — to grow and invest here in the United States and to grow U.S. workers here. So that remains the overall objective,” said Spicer.
Trump has not divested from the Trump Organization since taking office. Instead, he passed control of the business on to his sons. Federal ethics regulations prohibit White House officials from endorsing specific companies or advocating for them. Earlier this year, the White House said Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to the president, was “counseled” after she encouraged viewers to buy clothing and jewelry from Ivanka Trump’s line.
At the briefing, Yahoo News pressed Spicer about whether the president’s family could show leadership on this issue by making a commitment to manufacture their products here. Spicer again insisted it would be “out of bounds” for him to discuss the family’s businesses.
“Again, it’s not appropriate for me to stand up here and comment about a business. I believe that’s a little out of bounds. But again, I would go back to the president’s broader goal, which is to create investment here, to bring back the manufacturing base,” Spicer said.
Spicer also argued that measures of confidence in business sectors are at “all-time highs” and suggested that executives are optimistic “that the president’s agenda is going to accomplish that.”
The issue of the Trump family’s array of foreign products came up once more in the briefing when Spicer was asked if Trump was the right person to push this message given his outsourcing of branded merchandise. Spicer argued that Trump’s business background helps him understand the issues that push companies out of the country “very, very uniquely.”
“So I think he actually is — in a very unique way understands the challenges that our regulatory system and our tax system put on businesses that want to hire here, that want to grow here, that need scalability and capacity here in a way that maybe isn’t because of some of our arcane trade laws, our regulations, or our tax laws,” said Spicer.
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