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Trump's 'Made In America' Week Highlights Products Made In The U.S.


Gibson guitars, Sikorsky helicopters and Stetson cowboy hats - those are a few of the American-made products showcased at the White House today. The Trump administration's trying to highlight domestic manufacturing even though Trump's own businesses are heavily reliant on imports. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from the White House. Hey there, Scott.


CORNISH: So this is, as the administration calls it, Made in America week. How did they kick it off?

HORSLEY: They are spotlighting one manufacturer from each of the 50 states. So they hosted a sort of red, white and blue expo here at the White House with products stretching from the South Lawn outside, inside of the Blue Room and the East Room. Utah and Virginia were both represented by flagmakers. He had garden tools from Ohio, fishing gear from Montana, crab pots from Maryland and from your home state of Massachusetts, Audie, horseshoes.


HORSLEY: Trump, who's fond of heavy equipment, climbed up on a fire engine from Wisconsin, and he signed a proclamation declaring this Made in America week.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to build, create and grow more products in our country using American labor, American goods and American grit.

HORSLEY: The president says that way both the profits and the jobs from factory sales remain in this country.

CORNISH: Now, even though the president talks a lot about buying American and hiring American, there's been a lot of reporting about whether the Trump Organization as a business follows that ethos, right? I mean what more do you know?

HORSLEY: Well, the clothing line to which the president has attached his name is largely manufactured overseas. That's also true of Ivanka Trump's line of clothes and accessories. Trump was quizzed about this on CNN all the way back in 2015, and he made no bones about it.


TRUMP: I talk about my ties in...


TRUMP: ...Speeches. You know, I'm open. I say my ties many times are made in - not all of them, by the way - but a lot of them are made in China because they've manipulated their currency to such a point that it's impossible for our companies to compete.

HORSLEY: Now, Trump has since acknowledged that China is no longer manipulating its currency, but that hasn't really changed the landscape. There is one apparel maker on display at the White House expo today, Campbellsville Apparel from Kentucky. They make T-shirts and other products for the military and now sell to the general public as well.

You know, according to the tracking company Import Genius, which monitors shipping containers, the Trump Organization often looks overseas when stocking the president's hotels and his golf courses. And he hires overseas as well. The president's Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, relies on immigrant labor for what Trump says is seasonal work. And just today, the Homeland Security Department announced it's OKing 15,000 more of those temporary H-2B visas for other employers. That's about a 25 percent increase.

CORNISH: Now, the showcase at the White House is obviously welcome publicity - right? - for the companies that are involved. But what about the manufacturing industry more broadly? I mean what's the administration offering in the way of policy?

HORSLEY: Yeah. The president summed up his agenda today. He talked about cutting red tape, which he has been doing. There's also his trade agenda. He canceled the big Asia-Pacific trade deal. Just today the administration spelled out its goals for renegotiating NAFTA. That kind of cuts both ways. It may protect some domestic industries from imports, but it could also make it harder for would-be exporters to sell products overseas.

Trump also wants to boost energy production, which could help factories that use a lot of energy. And of course he wants to cut taxes, although there hasn't really been a movement on that yet. We have seen a modest jump in factory jobs this year - about 71,000 more factory jobs since the election and 41,000 more since President Trump came into office.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSH WHITE SONG, "SURRENDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.