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Big Carrot, Big Stick

Good morning.

Donald Trump doubled down on his carrot and stick routine with big business Monday, reinforcing the central message of his economic policy: Manufacture in the U.S., and I will shower you with benefits. Manufacture abroad, and you will be hit with tariffs and taxes.

The President met with a dozen top U.S. CEOs, and promised to wipe out 75% of the regulations that hinder their business, and to cut their taxes “massively.” But the president also made clear that he still intends to impose “a very major border tax” on U.S. companies that manufacture goods in other countries and ship them back into the U.S.

The CEOs emerged from the meeting expressing optimism. Ford CEO Mark Fields said he “came out with a lot of confidence that the President is very, very serious about making sure that the U.S. economy is going to be strong and have policies – tax, regulatory or trade – to help drive that.” Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky called the meeting “productive.” Dow CEO Andrew Liveris acknowledged that the executives discussed “at length” the proposal to tax U.S. companies that manufacture goods in other countries and then import them back into the U.S.


Others at the meeting included Elon Musk of Tesla, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, Mario Longhi of US Steel, Jeff Fettig of Whirlpool, Klaus Kleinfeld of Arconic, Wendell Weeks of Corning, and Mark Sutton of International Paper.

Also yesterday, Trump signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade deal favored by most U.S.-based global companies. Australia and New Zealand are now scrambling to keep the deal together, without U.S. involvement. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said they may get China to join – an arrangement that could leave U.S. companies at a significant disadvantage.

The President will continue his dance with business this morning, in a breakfast meeting with auto industry CEOs.