New York Hilton Midtown
New York, New York
12:09 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Barbara. So sad that this is live. She said it’s live. (Laughter.) It’s always live. There’s always somebody with a phone. It becomes live. Ask a lot of politicians that are no longer in politics.
I want to thank Marie-Josée Kravis for your incredible leadership of the club. It’s an honor to be here. It is wonderful also to be back in New York with so many friends and distinguished leaders in business, in finance, academia, and, I have to add, in real estate. All my real estate friends are here.
I’m especially grateful for, and to, your longtime club members, because it’s a club with a tremendous reputation. And somebody doing a absolutely incredible job as Director of the National Economic Council, a friend of mine who I got on — I’ve been hearing this voice for 35 years; it’s driving me crazy: Larry Kudlow. (Applause.) Always calm. Always cool. And he’s just Larry, and he’s terrific — I’ll tell you that.
Three years ago, I came to speak before this storied forum as a candidate for President. And at that time, America was stuck in a failed recovery and saddled with a bleak economic future. And it was bleak. Under the last administration, nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost; almost 5 million more Americans had left the labor force, and jobs were not exactly what you would call plentiful; and 10 million people had been added to the food stamp rolls.
In 2016, the Department of Labor predicted that Americans would continue dropping out of the workforce in record numbers. They predicted and projected a decade of sluggish growth, and they expected unemployment over 5 percent — and, really, 6, 7, and even, in some cases, 8 percent — for many years to come. The so-called experts said the Americans had no choice but to accept stagnation, decay, and a shrinking middle class as the new normal. That was said all the time. In short, the American people were told to sit back and accept a slow, inevitable decline.
But I never believed for one moment that our magnificent nation was destined for a diminished future. I knew that our destiny was in our own hands; that we could choose to reject a future of America and, really, look at a future of American decline unacceptable, and to build a future of American dominance, which is what I wanted. It couldn’t be any other way, or I would have never done this. I refused to accept that Americans had to lower their expectations or give up on their dreams. America is the single greatest country in the world, and I knew that working together we could make it even greater.
In 2016, I stood before you supremely confident in what our people could achieve if government stopped punishing American workers and started promoting American workers and American companies. Our middle class was being crushed under the weight of a punitive tax code, oppressive regulations, one-sided trade deals, and an economic policy that put America’s interest last, and a very deep last at that.
I knew that if we lifted these burdens from our economy, and unleashed our people to pursue their ambitions and realize their limitless potential, then economic prosperity would come thundering back to our country at a record speed. And that’s what’s happening.
Today, I’m proud to stand before you as President of the United States to report that we have delivered on our promises and exceeded our expectations by a very wide margin. We have ended — (applause) — thank you. I was waiting for that. Thank you. I was waiting for that. (Laughter.) I almost didn’t get it.
We have ended the war on American workers, we have stopped the assault on American industry, and we have launched an economic boom the likes of which we have never seen before.
I did this despite a near-record number of rate increases and quantitative tightening by the Federal Reserve since I won the election — eight increases in total — which were, in my opinion, far too fast an increase and far too slow a decrease. Because remember, we are actively competing with nations who openly cut interest rates so that now many are actually getting paid when they pay off their loan — known as negative interest. Who ever heard of such a thing? Give me some of that. (Laughter.) Give me some of that money. I want some of that money. Our Federal Reserve doesn’t let us do it.
I don’t say — (applause) — thank you. Thank you. The smart people are clapping. Only the smart people are clapping.
I don’t say that’s good for the world — I’m not President of the world; I’m President of our country — but we are competing against these other countries nonetheless, and the Federal Reserve doesn’t let us play at that game. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage to other countries.
Yet, in the face of this reality, our economic policies have ushered in an unprecedented tide of prosperity surging all throughout the nation. We’re paying interest. By other comparisons, we’re paying, actually, high interest. We should be paying, by far, the lowest interest, and yet we’re doing better than any nation, by far, on Earth. The extraordinary numbers tell the story.
Back in 2016, before I took office, the Congressional Budget Office projected that fewer than 2 million jobs would be created by this time in 2019. Instead, my administration has created nearly 7 million jobs, and going up rapidly. We beat predictions — (applause) — thank you. We beat predictions more than three times the highest estimate that I saw during the campaign. Nobody thought it was even possible to get close to a 7 million number. Two million was maxed out, if you were lucky and if you did a great job.
Unemployment has recently achieved the lowest rate in 51 years. African American unemployment, Hispanic American unemployment, and Asian American unemployment, have all reached the lowest rates in history. Women’s unemployment, the best numbers in 71 years. We expect that that number of 71 years — which isn’t good compared to the other numbers, is it? But women also will soon be “historic,” we think.
Blue-collar jobs are leading the way in our middle class boom. We’ve added 25,000 mining jobs, 128,000 energy jobs, and 1.2 million manufacturing and construction jobs. And manufacturing was supposed to be dead in our country. You would need, according to a past administration representative at the highest level of that past administration — you would need a magic wand to bring back manufacturing jobs. Well, we brought them back, and we brought them back to over 600,000 manufacturing jobs as of today. (Applause.) And those are very important jobs.
Nearly 7 million people have been lifted off, very importantly, food stamps. Seven million people off of food stamps. (Applause.) And we’re getting Americans off of welfare and back into the workforce. (Applause.) Nearly 2.5 million Americans have risen out of poverty. That’s a record. The rate of African American and Hispanic American families in poverty has plummeted to the lowest level ever recorded, by far. (Applause.) And most of you people wouldn’t know these numbers because most of you aren’t very active in the market. (Laughter.)
But since my election, the S&P 500 is up over 45 percent, the Dow Jones is up over 50 percent, and the NASDAQ is up 60 percent, slightly more. (Applause.) And if we had a Federal Reserve that worked with us, you could have added another 25 percent to each one of those numbers — I guarantee you that. (Laughter and applause.) That doesn’t happen. But we all make mistakes, don’t we? Not too often. We do make them on occasion.
American markets have vastly outpaced the rest of the world. This exceptional growth is boosting 401(k)s, pensions, and college savings accounts for millions and millions of hardworking families. You hear so much about inequality and all of the differences and all of the problems. The single biggest benefactors of what we’ve done are middle-class workers and low-income families. It’s been amazing, actually.
Altogether, we’ve added nearly $10 trillion of new value to our economy. That’s in a short period of time. Remember, I only use numbers from the time of the election because I can’t go to January 20th. It’s not fair. We picked up tremendous stock market and economic numbers. They actually went wild the day after I won. I think that should be attributed to us, not attributed to somebody else, because it would’ve gone in the opposite direction. (Applause.) It would’ve gone in the opposite direction had the other result taken place, which, fortunately, it didn’t.
Last year, GDP growth matched the fastest rate in more than a decade, and it was the best of the G7 countries by far. By far. (Applause.)
Perhaps most importantly — after years of stagnation and decline — American wages, salaries, and incomes are rising very fast. Median household income is now at the highest level in the history of our country. (Applause.)
The average median income under President Bush rose only $400 over an eight-year period. Under President Obama, it rose $975 over an eight-year period. And under my administration, it rose $5,000 over slightly more than just two and a half years. That’s a big difference. (Applause.)
And if you remember, President Obama was paying zero percent interest for a long period of time, while we’re paying a much higher rate of interest. But in addition to the $5,000, we have to add $2,200 for the tax cuts — average tax cuts — and $2,000 to $3,000 for regulatory and energy cuts. So that would be a total of almost $10,000 versus $400 and versus $975. So, that’s something.
So you have, over eight years, you have $400. Over eight years, you have $975. Over two and a half years — we’re almost up to three — but this was done and calculated only as of two and a half, and it’s only gone up since then — we’re at almost $10,000.
So, our consumers, because of this, are in the best shape, probably, in the history of our country. And I think it’s going to be very long lasting. Very, very long lasting.
This also allows me the latitude and timing to take some of the horrible, incompetent, just terrible trade deals that have been made over the years, and make them great. It’s like “Make America Great Again” — make the trade deals great. I don’t know if I can use the word “again.” Make them great. Period. Because I don’t think they were ever any good. (Laughter.) I haven’t seen it. We were great and then we weren’t so great, but we’re great again.
And, by the way, on jobs — just now — I’m glad this is today because, just now, they just announced we have the highest number of people working in our country in the history of our country. Almost 160 million people. We’ve never been close to that number. (Applause.)
So, we’ve achieved this stunning turnaround because we’ve adopted a new economic policy that finally puts America first. As President, I understand and embrace the fact that the world is a place of fierce competition. We’re competing against other nations for jobs and industry, growth and prosperity. Factories and businesses will always find a home. It’s up to us to decide whether that home will be in a foreign country, or right here in our country, our beloved USA. And that’s where we want them to stay, and be, and move to. (Applause.)
If we want our families and communities to prosper, America must be the best place on Earth to work, invest, innovate, build, pursue a career, hone a craft, or start a business. We want companies to move to America, stay in America, and hire American workers. My mission is to put our country on the very best footing to thrive, excel, compete, and to win.
For many years, our leaders in Washington did the exact opposite. They imposed the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. So high that people couldn’t even understand what they were doing and they would leave. Very, very smart executives didn’t want to leave, but they would leave, sending our jobs and everything else all a flutter. They waged an unethical regulatory assault on the American people. They tried to shut down American energy. And, by the way, they’re still trying.
You want to see energy shut down? Take a look at what I’m competing against on the other side. I don’t think they even believe in energy. So far, I haven’t found any form of energy that’s acceptable to them. I think they think the factories are just going to work without energy, don’t they? (Laughter.) They don’t have a clue, these people. But I don’t want to mention it yet. (Laughter.) I want to wait a little bit longer. Let them go a little bit further so they can’t take it back, because as a campaign, I like it. I like it very much. (Applause.) Let them keep talking. Every time they talk, I say, “Boy, this looks like it might be easier than I anticipated.” (Laughter.)
They passed the disastrous trade deals that encouraged the shuttering of American plants and the offshoring of American jobs by the millions. In short, the failed political class sold out American workers, sold out American prosperity, and sold out the American Dream.
This was the alarming situation I was elected to end. And ending, it’s never that easy. And you see that. You do have people that want to keep it going that way, but they’re losing and they’re losing now rapidly and fast. Those days are gone, and we’re not going back.
As you know, one of the key insights of economics is the power of incentives. Unlike past leaders, my goal is to ensure that this power works for America’s favor and for America’s workers and for America’s companies. We want the incentives created by our tax, trade, regulatory, and energy policies to be pro-growth, pro-worker, and 100 percent pro-American. And more is yet to come.
If we take back the House in 2020 and retain the Senate and the White House, you will see things that even this room — and you’ve experienced a lot of great times over the last two and a half years, but even you will be surprised to see. We have tremendous economic potential. We have tremendous potential. We have tremendous economic potential.
At the heart of our economic revival is the biggest tax cut and reforms in American history. We provided massive relief for working families, saving $2,000 a year for a typical family of four. To bring jobs back, we lowered our business tax rate from the highest tax rate in the developed world down to a very competitive number. Not quite the lowest, but getting close. And we may even be able to get there one day not too — in the not-too-distant future.
And, by the way, we’re taking in more tax revenue with these greatly reduced rates — 21 percent. And it was 39 percent, but when you added everything else, it was well into the 40s, and you couldn’t bring your money back, because that was prohibitive. Both ministerially and from an economic standpoint, the rate was so high. But we brought it down to a level that we’re very proud of and we think we can bring it down still more. And yet, we’re raising — we have more tax revenues coming into our Treasury than we’ve ever had before. That tells you something right there.
Since then, nearly $1 trillion have returned to our shores where that money belongs. Couldn’t get it back. No matter what you did, you couldn’t do it. It was not only the rate being so high, but the bureaucracy, the documents, the signings. Nobody could do it.
To promote investment in distressed American communities, our tax plan created nearly 9,000 Opportunity Zones, which are one of the biggest successes that you’ve ever seen. I don’t think there has ever been anything like it. Worked with Tim Scott — Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina — and many of the great senators that we do work with and, frankly, Congress, and we passed something that nobody thought was possible to get passed, and nobody thought it could ever work the way it is.
Capital gains on long-term investments are now taxed in an Opportunity Zone at zero, and money is flooding in. Investment is pouring into these long-neglected communities. The government wasn’t putting money in; nobody was. They were dying. And now tremendous — they call it “neighborhood push.” It’s incredible what’s happening. It’s one of the — it’s not spoken of by the fake news media, but they should speak about it, because I will tell you, it’s one of the great successes that we’ve all had. And it’s employing tremendous numbers of people. And you have communities that were down and totally out, and they’re reviving like nobody has ever seen. Opportunity Zones. Remember those two words.
We believe in no American left behind, and we understand the enormous power of investment, capital, and opportunity to revitalize communities and bring hope where it is needed the most.
To liberate our economy, my administration launched the biggest, boldest, and most ambitious campaign to reduce regulation. Nobody has ever come close. No administration has ever come close. In two and a half years, we’ve done far more than any other administration, whether it was four years, eight years, or in one case, more than eight years. Nobody has come close to doing what we’ve done with regulations. (Applause.)
And I happen to think, as great as the tax cut was — the largest in our history — I really happen to think that the regulation cuts may have had an even bigger impact on the economy. And it was quicker because we were able to do them very early in the administration — earlier than the tax cuts.
Within days of taking office, I issued an executive order to end the outstanding, horrible federal intrusions that you saw — it was an onslaught — into business, into people’s lives. And it was really done by unelected bureaucrats. They were really accountable, and nobody held them accountable. And sometimes, it’s not pleasant to hold them accountable, but I do it. I do it. And we had no choice, because we were going nowhere, fast.
My order required that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. But instead of two for one, we have now eliminated nine for one. And we think that, within the next six months, it will be close to twenty for one instead of two for one. (Applause.)
And it sounds like a lot, but you have no idea, when you look at the piles and piles and piles of regulation, on each one of our — our great Secretaries, we’ve had some — we have some great people working here. But you go into rooms that are half the size of this, and they would literally be stacked to the ceiling with regulations. Nobody has ever seen anything like it. And we have actually, I think, a fairly long way to go. We need regulation, but it has to be smart regulation.
Highways were taking 20 years to get built, to get approved. You’d put in a application; 20, 21 years later, they’d reject it. It would cost many, many times more — 25, 30, 40 times more. But they were taking 20 years. We’re trying to get that down to one. And it may get rejected, and that’s okay. But you haven’t spent 20 years on environmental impact statements in order to build a simple highway or roadway that’s desperately needed.
So we have it down close to one year. We want to hit the one-year number. And if it doesn’t work, we’re going to reject it. But it’s going to be rejected fast. Swiftly. But mostly, it’s not going to be rejected.
We ended the ridiculous Waters of the United States rule. What a beautiful name. The name was beautiful. The act was a disaster. It didn’t allow you to do anything. When I signed it, I said, “You know, Waters of the United States — what could be a more beautiful title? I’m going to get killed when I sign this.” To kill it. I had to kill it. It was — it made land development prohibitive. It made impossible situations for farmers, for everybody. And I had 35 people in my office — farmers, and builders, and ranchers, and others. Strong people, very strong — men and women — and almost all of them were crying. They said, “You’ve given our life back.” These laws were horrible. They took away everything. You would have a puddle in your land, and they would call it — you were under river control, you were under lake control, for what is called a “puddle.” You couldn’t get anywhere near it. And if you did, you’d literally be arrested.
We’re streamlining approvals for critical infrastructure. Our regulatory roadblock [rollback] is also leading to major price reductions in healthcare and prescription drugs. We’ve gotten the prescription drugs down. First time in 53 years that prescription drug prices have gone down.
And if we had help from the Democrats, which we do not have — you possibly have noticed that — (laughter) — we would have — we would be able to cut prescription drugs by 30, 40, and 50 percent. I’ve told some of the governors — Ron DeSantis in Florida — “Go buy them from other countries. I’m okay with it. I’m going to give them an executive order,” because Canada and other countries sell the exact same drug from the exact same factory for sometimes 50, 60, and 70 percent less than we do.
And rather than going through the political charade and all of the things where — the middleman — I hope we don’t have any middlemen in here, because somebody is not going to like me too much. (Laughter.) We have a middleman — any middlemen? I think they have to be the richest people in the world, if you want to know the truth. (Laughter.) They make far more than the drug companies, in most cases. But I said, “Buy it from other companies — countries. You go out to other countries.”
And what’s happening already is the companies are coming back, and they want to make great deals, because now I’m giving the right to governors to go to Canada, go to England, go all over — go all over Europe, where the prices are so much less. Because we were forced to pay for all research and development, and they didn’t pick up any of the cost. Ridiculous rules. So unfair to our country. I said, “Buy them from other countries and pass along the savings.” The savings will be staggering. And we’re starting that program. But as soon as we start that program, watch what happens with the drug prices. They’ll come down over here. Because it’s the same companies that make the drugs. The exact same companies. Hard to believe.
Altogether, our regulatory cuts, as mentioned, save American households thousands and thousands of dollars every year.
The foundation of American liberty and prosperity has always been the rule of law. Throughout history, economies have failed when the rule of law is abandoned. That’s why we must protect the constitutional rule of law in our country at all costs. (Applause.) So important. We’ve got some lawless people in some very high positions. They’re lawless.
For this reason, we have now appointed, as of today, 161 — and fully approved — brand-new federal judges, court of appeals judges, to interpret our Constitution as written. (Applause.) That will soon be 182 judges. And, as you know, two Supreme Court justices, who are great gentlemen, both — both fully in and making some very big decisions, even today, as we speak. The 161, 162 that we have now — we’ll be at 182 within two months. And then we normalize, meaning we go through the normal system.
When I came into office, one of the first things I said was, “How many federal judges do I have to appoint?” Because I always heard it was the single-most important thing a President can do — federal judges and Supreme Court justices. They said, “Sir, you have 142.” I said, “What?” Because I was always told you would never have any. Maybe you’d have one or two, maybe three if the previous President wasn’t doing a good job. But they said, “You have 142.” I said, “You have to be kidding.” And we did. We had 142. And we’ve added to that through different things. And we will be at 182. That will be a record. Nobody has ever done that before. It was shocking. But I just want to say: Thank you very much, President Obama. We appreciate it very much, for the 142. Thank you. (Applause.) And I’m sure his party is thrilled with him. But if they aren’t, they won’t say anything. Don’t worry about it.
Thanks to these and other policies, last year, the World Economic Forum recognized the United States as the globe’s most competitive economy. We’ve put it back into this position where we are competitive like no other nation.
To fuel our economic boom, we are bolding — and boldly pursuing American energy independence. And you see that in the Middle East, where ships are at great danger. And they keep saying, “What happened to the American ships?” They don’t see too many American ships over there anymore. Do you notice that?
We stopped the radical crusade to dismantle U.S. energy production and empower rogue regimes. We withdrew from the one-sided, horrible, horrible, economically unfair, “close your businesses down within three years,” “don’t frack, don’t drill, we don’t want any energy” — the horrible Paris Climate Accord that killed American jobs and shielded foreign polluters. It was a disaster for this country. Ask them, “How are they doing in Paris with your Paris Accord?” Not too good.
And I will tell you, when I signed — that was another one — Clean Waters of the United States — well, the Paris Accord, too — and I said, “This is going to take guts.” I just closed my eyes and I signed it. (Laughter.) I got one day of a big hit from some of the radical-left newspapers. And then after that, everybody thanks me. They thank me so profusely. You’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars of destruction would have been done to our country with the Paris Climate Accord.
And it is so unfair. It doesn’t kick in for China until 2030. Russia goes back into the 1990s, where the base year was the dirtiest year ever in the world. India, we are supposed to pay them money because they are a developing nation. I said, “We’re a developing nation, too.” (Laughter.) “Why aren’t we…” Under the WTO, China is called a “developing nation.” So we wrote them a letter recently; Larry knows it. I’m not sure Larry liked the idea too much, but he went along with it. (Laughter.) We wrote them a very tough letter, Larry, and we said —
MR. KUDLOW: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: What?
MR. KUDLOW: I wrote the letter.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, Larry wrote it. (Laughs.) He said — (Laughter.) Boy, you hopped on that bandwagon quickly, didn’t you? (Laughter.) That’s okay. But we wrote them a letter and we said, much more strongly than the letter, that — not fair to have China as a developing nation. One of the reasons they’ve taken advantage of us is because of that. And we’re considered the big, fat cow. And no longer. No longer. We have a lot of things to work out.
And I will say this: Because they know that I’m very tentative on the WTO, we’re winning cases for the first time. We just won a 7.5 billion-dollar case. We never won cases. They’d rule against us because they said, “Hey, don’t worry about the United States. They’re the stupid people. Don’t worry. Rule against them.” Keep rule- — we had case after case. Now, we’re winning cases, because they really think that I’ll do something very powerful, which we have the right to do. And they’re right when they think that way. And we’re winning a lot of cases at the WTO level, we never — that we never even would have thought of winning before.
America is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas on the entire planet Earth. Net energy imports — (applause) — net energy imports — this is so great — set a historic low; it’s a 58-year low, but that’s only because they only go back 58 years, meaning, I assume if it’s low now, it’s lower than it used to be, unless something happened that’s very strange back then. But it’s at a historic low. We are now a net exporter of natural gas, and we recently became a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products for the first time in our country’s history. It’s a big thing. (Applause.)
According to the Council of Economic Advisers, the astonishing increase in production, made possible by the shale revolution, saves Americans $2,500 for a family of four in lowering electric bills and prices at the pump. And the number is actually now even higher than that.
My administration is also restoring the principle that to be a strong nation, America must be a manufacturing nation. These are great jobs. These are brilliant, great people that know how to manufacture. These people were under-appreciated and under-taken care of. But we take care of them. We cherish them.
Past leaders wrote off American manufacturing as dead, but their policies were the ones that were actually killing it. We killed manufacturing. That’s why we were losing all those jobs, because we made it impossible to manufacture. We opened it all up.
After losing — and this is a number that’s hard to believe, and I’ve been saying it for three years, and I know it’s right because the fake news has never corrected me. If it was wrong, it would have been headlines: “Trump made a mistake.” But they can’t say it. After losing 60,000 — can you believe that? — factories under the previous two administrations, America is now gaining over 10,000 brand-new, beautiful factories, and many, many more than that want to come back in. Because under my administration, we’re producing jobs and incentives for these companies to come back. I’m calling, as an example, Prime Minister Abe of Japan. And I say, “Mr. Prime Minister, Shinzo, we have a tremendous problem. We have big deficits with your country. You’ve got to start building plants.” He’s building many, many car plants now in the United States that he would’ve never built here if you didn’t have this kind of a President. And he’s very happy to be doing it.
But they’re all coming back to the United States. They want to be where the action is. Very simple: They want to be where the action is. This is where the action is. There’s nobody close. There’s no country close.
When I meet with the leaders of countries, as they come in — kings and queens and prime ministers and presidents and dictators — I meet them all. (Laughter.) Anybody who wants to come in — dictators, it’s okay, come on in. Whatever is good for the United States. We want to help our people. But the first thing they say to me almost always: “Congratulations on your economy.” They all say it. “Congratulations, it’s incredible what’s happened to your country. It’s incredible what’s happened to your economy.” First thing they say in almost every instance.
But central to this comeback is a series of bold initiatives to reform a broken system of international trade. We want thriving commerce with as many countries as possible, but trade must be fair, and to me, it must be my favorite word, “reciprocal.” It’s not reciprocal. We’re getting it to be much more reciprocal.
The American market is the most valuable and coveted market anywhere in the world. Those who want access must play by the rules, and they have to respect our game and our laws, and they have to treat our workers and businesses fairly — not the way they’ve been treating them over the last 25 years. America will not be taken advantage of anymore. (Applause.)
Many countries charge us extraordinarily high tariffs or create impossible trade barriers. Impossible. And I’ll be honest: European Union — very, very difficult. The barriers they have up are terrible. Terrible. In many ways, worse than China.
We’re working on legislation known as the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, meaning quite simply: What’s good for them is good for us. If they want to charge us, we charge them. It’s a very simple thing. Even people that aren’t well versed in what we all do say — I went to a couple of senators — went to Lindsey Graham. I said, “Lindsey, let me ask you. What do you think of that? They’re charging us 100 percent. We’ll charge them…” “That makes sense to me.” It really does. It makes sense to everybody because it’s very unfair the way we’re treated by certain countries. There are certain countries that the average tariff is over 100 percent. And we charge them nothing. And then they call it “fair trade.” That’s not fair trade; that’s stupid trade. (Laughter.) Of course, this will be subject to regaining the House, to be able to do these things.
Nowhere has the change in U.S. strategy been more vital or dramatic than in our dealings with respect to China. Before my election, Washington politicians stood by and did nothing while China ransacked our companies, stole our intellectual property, subsidized their industries at the expense of ours, and dumped their products in a deliberate strategy to close American factories all across our land.
For many years, Americans — leaders have just sat back. Maybe they didn’t understand what was going on. It’s impossible to believe that. But they just let it happen. And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse. And now we’ve changed it. It’s changed a lot. I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but it’s changed a lot.
In particular, since China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, no one has manipulated numbers better or taken advantage of the United States more. And I won’t use this word, “cheated.” I will not say the word, “cheated.” But nobody has cheated better than China, but I will not say that. (Laughter.) We’ll say that off the record, okay? And there’s only about 600 cameras back there. In fact, that is a big group up there. Good. I hope you use it because it’s true. And they understand it’s true.
And I don’t blame China, by the way. I blame our leaders, because we should’ve been doing what they were doing. They did it to use. We didn’t do it to them. We were defenseless. We had no leadership. This was for a long time. This is long beyond the Obama administration.
So I don’t blame them. I said this to President Xi. I was making a big speech in China. I had 5,000 people in front of me and I was talking about how bad China was. And I said, “This is not going over well.” (Laughter.) I was in Beijing — this massive hall. And I looked down at President Xi. He was sitting right where Larry is. He was not as imposing a figure as Larry Kudlow, but he was quite imposing. (Laughter.) And I said — I said, “You know, I think he’s getting very angry.” And I then I realized, “Hmm, how do we save this? This is going to be a disastrous afternoon.” (Laughter.) And I said, “But I don’t blame China. I blame our leaders.” And then I realized, that’s true. I blame our leaders for allowing it to happen. I’ve told that to you and many people many times.
But the theft of American jobs and American wealth is over. They understand that. My administration has taken the toughest-ever action to confront China’s trade abuses. We are taking in billions and billions of dollars in tariffs that China is paying for. We’re not paying. China is paying because they’re devaluing their currency to such an extent and they’re pouring tremendous amounts of cash into their system.
They’re having their worst year in more than 57 years, more than half a century. Their supply chains are cracking very badly, and they are dying to make a deal. We’re the ones that are deciding whether or not we want to make a deal. We’re close.
A significant phase one trade deal with China could happen. It could happen soon. But we will only accept a deal if it’s good for the United States and our workers and our great companies, because we’ve been hit very hard. We’d have deficits for many years — go back many years — $500 billion a year. Not million. Five hundred million dollars a year is a lot. Five hundred billion dollars a year in trade deficits with China. And we have it with many other countries, just not nearly as large. China probably makes up almost 60 percent of our deficits.
We also renegotiated the last administration’s failed trade agreement with South Korea. It was a terrible agreement. Our new agreement doubles the number of American cars that can be sold to South Korea under the U.S. standards, and it keeps America’s 25 percent import tax, known as the “chicken tax,” on small trucks, which was all ready to disappear. It was going to disappear.
The deal from the previous administration was projected by them to add 250,000 jobs, and they were right. It did add 250,000 jobs. Unfortunately, the jobs went to South Korea, not to the United States. That’s what we got stuck with.
We also struck a deal, which is historic, with Japan — it’s just partial because we’re having very tough negotiations and strong negotiations with Japan — to substantially reduce barriers for American agriculture and facilitate $40 billion in digital trade and agricultural purchases. That deal was signed, and it’s a great deal but it’s only phase one of the Japan deal, too.
A lot of these leaders don’t like me too much, folks. When you hear that I’m not so popular in various countries, please don’t accept that as, “Gee, he doesn’t have a good personality.” Just realize what I’m trying to do for you. It’s about time. Okay? Please. (Applause.)
They recently came out with a poll that President Obama is much more popular in Germany than I am. I said, “Guess what? He should be. He should be.” (Laughter.) The day I’m more popular than him, you know I’m not doing my job. Let’s put it that way. (Applause.) Because we’re treated very badly by countries. They take advantage of us, and they have for many, many years. It’s hard to break that cycle. But we’re breaking it and we’re getting along with them, believe it or not. We’re actually — I think they respect us far more today than they ever have, if you want to know the truth.
We’re replacing one of the worst trade deals ever in history, NAFTA, with a brand-new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — a historic win for American farmers, energy producers, and manufacturers. And the reason it’s such a good deal for us is, I said, “Listen, if you don’t sign this deal, we’re going to charge you tariffs on your product coming into the United States, including all of those cars that are now manufactured in Mexico.” Thirty percent of our business was lost over the last 20 years. It went to Mexico. And I said, “So, if you don’t sign it — so it’s a good agreement, we’re going to just charge you tariffs.” And they signed everything we wanted.
The USMCA will create up to half a million American jobs and add at least 1.2 percent more to our total GDP. And it should be much higher than that. Yet, Democrats in Washington would rather pursue outrageous hoaxes and delusional witch hunts — which are going absolutely nowhere; don’t worry about it — than pass the USMCA and deliver real stuff for the American workers. It’s a great bill — USMCA. And put pressure on the Democrats. There’s tremendous pressure already. And, most of them, if you had a vote today, I think most of them would actually vote for it. But Nancy Pelosi — Nervous Nancy — has to put it out there and sign. And if she doesn’t, she’s doing her party a tremendous disservice, and she’s doing this country a tremendous disservice.
As we create millions of new jobs, we are also transforming lives. Under the last administration, nearly 1.8 million Americans in their prime-working years simply gave up — they gave up — looking for work altogether and dropped out of the labor force. Under my administration, 2 million prime-age Americans have come off the sidelines already — people that we thought maybe would never work again — and they’ve fully rejoined the labor force. Something we’re very proud of. (Applause.)
And this includes a group that was having a hard time from the day of our Founders — the day they signed, these people have had a hard time. They’re former inmates — people that went to jail — who are getting a fresh start thanks to the landmark criminal justice reform bill that I signed into law, but maybe equally so because the economy is so good. They’re coming out of jail now and they’re getting jobs.
And I will tell you, the people that have been hiring them — and I get reports — they cannot believe how good they’ve been, and obviously, not in all cases. But it’s incredible. First time they’ve ever had an opportunity. They get out of jail, and they end up with a great job. And they cherish the job more than you would, more than I would. They cherish — they can’t believe what happened to them. And they’re doing a phenomenal job. First time it’s ever happened in the history of our country. It’s really terrific. (Applause.)
When we say, “Hire American,” we mean hire all Americans. By focusing on the needs of people, not the desires of government, we’re helping our citizens realize their ambitions and pursue rewarding careers. Over 1.1 million fewer Americans are now forced to rely on part-time work today than when I was elected. That’s a tremendous number. People were working two jobs, and three jobs, and making less money than they made 21 years ago. That was the stat.
A record number of Americans are quitting the job that they have to take a job they like even better. They like the job better. They like getting up in the morning, like we all do. They like going to work. And they have something that they can do, and they’re getting paid more money for it, which is something that’s probably never happened before in this country to the extent it’s happened now.
This increased competition is driving up wages for blue-collar workers who are the biggest beneficiaries of what we’re talking about and all the things that I’m mentioning today.
Real weekly wages for the lowest-paid earners have grown more in the first three years of my administration than in the entire decade before my election — and decade and much more than that.
Since the election, real wages have gone up 3.2 percent for the median American worker. But for the bottom income group, real wages are soaring — a number that’s never happened before — 9 percent. And that means you might make a couple of bucks less in your companies. You know what? That’s okay. That’s okay. This is a great thing for our country when you talk about equality. This is a great thing for our country.
Our tight labor market is helping them the most. Yet, Democrats in Washington want to erase these gains through an extreme policy of open borders, flooding the labor market, and driving down incomes for the poorest Americans, and driving crime right through the roof. They want nothing to do with looking at the people that are coming in. And some very, very bad people are trying to get in.
But we’re building the wall. It’s going up rapidly. We have tremendous help from Mexico, despite what you read. It was a terrible thing that you read over the last period of a few days, but also, over the last years.
But they have 27,000 soldiers on our border now protecting us from people coming into our country. And because of that, I’m not tariffing Mexican goods. So, it works out well for everyone. But we have 27,000 Mexican soldiers. And they play by different rules than our people. If our people speak rudely to a person coming in, it means they get the electric chair. It’s a very unfair situation. Our border — our border is so — our laws are so bad — our immigration laws. It’s so sad.
We have what’s called loopholes. Many loopholes. I could fix them in 15 minutes, but the Democrats don’t want to fix them, for two reasons: They don’t want to give us a win. And, honestly, I think they maybe just don’t care. And it would solve all of the problems and you wouldn’t need Mexico’s help. But we want to thank Mexico. We want to thank the President.
And I’ve likewise offered a lot of help because they have a tremendous problem with the cartels in their country — a problem like nobody would believe, where the cartels are almost ruling a country. And I am offering to the President of Mexico the ultimate hand. And he and I have a very good relationship, and let’s ultimately see what happens. But those cartels are horrible — what they’re doing. You see it every day. All you have to do is turn on the news.
I want people to come to our country, but they must come in legally and they must come through a system of merit.
We now know all of our obligations. Our moral obligation is to the American workers, and we’re committed to helping them climb that great ladder of success. To equip them with the skills they need, we launched the Pledge to America’s Workers. Three hundred and sixty-seven private sector partners are providing more than 14 million skills and career-training opportunities for U.S. workers.
And I have to say, I’m very proud of her. My daughter Ivanka, that’s all she wants to talk about. I say, “Ivanka, can we please talk about something else?” “No, Dad. I met today with Walmart. They’re taking a million people. I met…” She is — she wants to make these people have great lives. And when she started this two and a half years ago, her goal was 500,000 jobs. She’s now created 14 million jobs and they’re being trained by these great companies — the greatest companies in the world. Because the government can’t train them. It’s a great thing. (Applause.)
So, Jared is here and you’ll thank — you’ll thank Ivanka. She’s done an amazing job. Fourteen million from 500,000. We’re at 14 million and going up.
Today, the world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and proud and prosperous America. The world is a better place because of it also.
But everything that we have achieved is under threat from the left-wing ideology that demands absolute conformity, relentless regulation, and a top-down control of the entire U.S economy.
Far-left politicians in our nation’s Capitol want a massive government takeover of healthcare; they want to give government bureaucrats domination over every aspect of your business and your life; they want to eliminate American oil and natural gas; they want to enlist us in global projects designed to redistribute American wealth and kill American jobs all over our nation.
Washington’s Democrats and their radical agenda of socialism would demolish our economy, reinstate the avalanche of regulations that I have already ended, decimate the middle class, and totally bankrupt our nation. As long as I’m President, America will never be a socialist country. (Applause.)
We are reawakening the majestic spirit of enterprise and exploration, discovery, and all of the other things that we need to create that exceptional character that our nation is developing now more than at any time in the past.
We’re a nation of unbridled pioneers, and adventurers, and risk-takers. We inherit the legacy of courageous, free, and independent souls who ventured across oceans, braved the wilderness, settled the frontiers, tamed the Wild West, and raised up towering cities of concrete, iron, and steel.
Our American ancestors produced miracles of science, lost — this is (inaudible) — lost so many lives, but launched revolutions in technology, created groundbreaking new industries, built the railroads that linked our cities, fashioned the skyscrapers that touched the clouds, and gave us the most prosperous nation to ever exist on the face of the Earth.
This is our American heritage. This is who we are. This is who we will forever be.
We believe in the dignity of work and the nobility of each and every American worker. We believe the future is forged in the mind of the American inventor, the soul of the American craftsman, the heart of the American entrepreneur, and the faith of the American investor. We know that there is nothing we cannot achieve as one team, one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God.
With everyone here today, and millions of patriots across our land, we are making America stronger, prouder, and greater than ever before. And, ladies and gentlemen, the best is yet to come.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
MS. VAN ALLEN: Thank you, Mr. President, for your insights and the great work that you do, sir.
We’ll now move to the question-and-answer portion of our program. Our two very able questioners today are Mr. John Hess, CEO of Hess Corporation, and Mr. Mark Gallogly, Managing Principal of Centerbridge Partners. Mr. Hess, you have the first question.
MR. HESS: Mr. President, welcome back to New York. Mr. President, you’ve been a tough negotiator to address unfair trading practices and ensure that U.S. businesses get fair treatment. But there’s a growing consensus that the trade war has a cost and is weighing on our economic growth and capital spending. As you know, capital spending in the United States, last year, was up 10 percent. This year, it’s flat.
While you mentioned in your speech significant progress that has been made on several fronts, a number of industrial sectors have recently been hurt: manufacturing, automotive, and oil. What are your plans to address these economic headwinds?
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you, John. They haven’t been hurt. You know, they were totally down. Now they are a little bit down because a little big, perhaps, the uncertainty of trade wars. But there is no uncertainty. We’re the bank that everyone wants to take from. We’re the source that everybody needs and everybody wants all over the world. The real cost, John, would be if we did nothing. The cost of doing nothing was killing us, as a country — our national debt and so many other things. But it was killing us.
So when I — when you say, “Gee, let’s just…” — because perhaps this is an assumption based on the question — “Gee, let’s just keep it the way it is with China,” that would be the real cost. We can’t do that.
One of the things I was able to do with China: As an example — we’ve taken in — I mean, we’ll soon be up to $100 billion in tariffs. And you haven’t seen inflation and you haven’t seen, in many cases, price increases.
Our farmers — because I have a very good relationship with our farmers — our great American farmers — I call them “patriots” — they were hurt very badly by China because China targeted them because they were my vote. The whole middle of the country — it’s a beautiful thing to see, I will say. But they targeted them.
And I said to Sonny Perdue, our Secretary of Agriculture, “Sonny, how much is it?” And he said, “The year before last, it was $12 billion, and this year it’s $16 billion in orders.” I said, “That’s okay, Sonny. We’re going to give them $28 billion. We’re going to take it right out of the tariffs. And, hopefully, the farmers will say, “Thank you very much, China.”
And we spread — distributed, two years, $28 billion around to China — around from China, into our farmers and farms and ranchers and all of the people that were targeted. So, I would say, in a rough manner, “by China.” I would say in a very rough manner. And now China is coming back. And as you know, they’re already starting big buys — very big buys. And the farmers are very happy.
The incredible thing with the farmers is they don’t want a subsidy, they don’t want a handout. But in this case, I thought it was something that I wanted to do, and I was able to do it — $28 billion. And after that, we had tremendous amounts of the billions left over that we could use. Actually, we could use it for tax reductions. We could distribute it to people.
And again, if we don’t make a deal with China — look, I had a deal. We had a deal. This gentleman can tell you, we were so close to a deal. The hard points were negotiated: opening up China, intellectual property, all sorts of tremendous penalties.
And then, one day, we get a call — seven months ago, we get a call, they’d like to see us. And we saw them, and they explained why they can’t do three or four things that were already agreed to. And I said, “Okay. Hey, look, I’m in the real estate business in New York. I’ve heard that before.” (Laughter.) Sadly. It wasn’t like, “Oh, gee, I’m so shocked.” But I was a little surprised. You know, it’s China. They’re not supposed to do that. But they did. And I’ll tell you what: I’ll bet you they wished they didn’t do it.
Then I put on 25 percent tariffs on everything coming in — on the first $250 billion of product. It’s going to 15 percent very soon. And I tell this to Larry, I tell it to everybody: If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs. They’re going to be raised very substantially.
And that’s going to be true for other countries that mistreat us too, because we’ve been mistreated by so many countries. It’s hard to believe. There are a few that haven’t mistreated us. And, you know, I can’t blame them, if you can get away with it. This is why I blame our past leadership. I don’t know how it’s gotten this way. So, we’ll have a trade deficit of — over the last, you know, long period of time, close to $800 billion. Whoever heard of this? Eight hundred billion dollars of trade deficit. It’s supposed to be the other way around.
So, we’re changing it rapidly. It takes a while. You have statutory constraint. You have — in some cases, you take it to one phase, and then you have to, by law, wait six months before you can go to phase two, and phase three, and phase four. But we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress. And we are respected on — on many fronts.
We rebuilt our military, John, which is very important. You know, we can all talk about trade, we can all talk about judges, we can all talk about everything we’re doing. But if we don’t have a military in this world today — you saw what we did with al-Baghdadi last week. And we have the greatest military force on Earth. It was depleted when I took over. We have to spend money on the military, otherwise — you know, it’s wonderful to have budgets, but if we don’t rebuild our military — and we have rebuilt it: $700 billion; $716 billion, the second year; and $738 billion this year. And our military will be at a level that nobody can even come close to competing with.
And that’s where we have to be. We had a military that was so depleted, so bad. The planes were so old; many of them didn’t fly. I could tell you stories about ammunition. They didn’t have ammunition. We had a real problem. Well, we have to do that; otherwise, everything we talk about doesn’t matter because we have some very big, very powerful players.
I’m not talking about radical Islam; I’m talking about beyond radical Islam. We have to look at the even bigger picture. But we handle radical Islamic terrorism. In addition, we wiped out ISIS, and now we’d like to bring our people back home. We kept the oil. You know, we kept the oil. (Applause.) We want to bring our people back home. (Applause.)
When I took over, three years ago, ISIS was all over various parts of the Middle East. I’d show you a map. It was put as a certain color, and that color was very predominant. And now that color doesn’t exist. Now, you’re going to have offshoots, and they’ll start building up again. And it would be nice if other countries could handle it, but maybe they won’t. But we’ve decimated ISIS and captured many. But we’ve decimated ISIS, and we’re going to have to keep it that way. That’s why we got the leader, al-Baghdadi, who, when you saw those orange jumpsuits with the cutting off of the heads standing on the beach — many young men, in this case — that was all Baghdadi.
And we also got his second. They had just taken a man. He just became second. Well, he got it, too. And guess what? We have our eye on his third. His third has got a lot of problems because we know where he is, too. (Laughter.) So we have to keep it that way; otherwise, we’re going to continue to have problems.
You look at what’s happened in Europe. I mean, what’s going on in Europe is very sad when you look at what’s taken place in Europe. So, they have to be able to straighten out their own problems. But, John, we’ve rebuilt our military.
Our manufacturing is coming back at a very, very strong pitch. It’s a little bit down from where it was last year. But last year, we’re doing record numbers. It’s coming back very, very powerfully. And our country is really strong. And I think one of the things that we can all talk about is the $10,000 per consumer, per person. But per consumer. When you look at that, I think, really, we’re going to go forward because our consumer is so strong, and never been strong like this. So we’re in great shape for the future. Thank you, John.
MR. HESS: Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. GALLOGLY: Mr. President, all the folks in the room are business leaders. Business works hard to think through and mitigate risk. How do you think about risk as it relates to trade policy and to, really, big issues like climate change?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, climate change is a very complex issue. I consider myself to be, in many ways, an environmentalist, believe it or not. When I build buildings, I did the best environmental impact statements. I was — you know, I know the game better than anybody. And I used to go and see my consultants that I was paying a lot of money — environmental consultants. They’d be up in Albany. And I’d say, “What are they doing up here?” Well, they were trying to make it more difficult so we’d have to hire them and pay them even more money than we were paying them now. And I know what it is.
But to me, it’s clean air and crystal-clean, clear water. And we have now the cleanest air we’ve ever had in our country, meaning, over the last 40 years. I guess, 200 years ago was cleaner, but there was nothing around. Right? I’m not sure that it was much cleaner, if you want to know the truth. (Laughter.) But I want clean air. I want clean water, environmentally.
If you take a look, we discussed the Paris Climate Accord. That would just put us out of business. We’re sending money all over. We’re doing things that are unnecessary. It would’ve been a catastrophe.
So I want — I’m very much into climate. But I want the cleanest air on the planet and I want to have — I have to have clean air — water. And, you know, when people ask the question — your part of the question about climate — I always say: You know, I have a little problem. We have a relatively small piece of land — the United States. And you compare that to some of the other countries like China, like India, like Russia, like many other countries that absolutely are doing absolutely nothing to clean up their smokestacks and clean up all of their plants and all of the garbage that they’re dropping in sea and that floats into Los Angeles, along with other problems that Los Angeles has, by the way. Isn’t amazing it ends up in Los Angeles? (Laughter.) Oh, what a — what a mess that is.
But when you see this happening, it’s — nobody wants to talk about it. They want to talk about our country. We have to do this. We have can’t have planes any longer. We can’t have cows any longer. We can’t have anything. I said, “What about China?” I don’t think they’re going to subscribe to a poor student coming up with 12 — you know, I actually heard the other day, some pretty good politician. I’ve seen him around for a long time. Nice white hair. Everything is like central casting. You could put the guy in a movie.
He was talking. I don’t know if he believes this — but he was a Democrat — he said, “We have 11 years.” It’s the first time I’ve heard it; I heard 12. But now, see, it’s been a year, so now they think we have 11 years to live. (Laughter.) I don’t know, folks. I think these people have gone totally loco. (Laughter.)
But we are — you know, they will kill our industry. They don’t want oil. I mean, go to Texas. Tell Texas there will be no more drilling, there will be no more oil and gas. We’ll put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. We won’t fuel our factories. And now you’re talking about millions and millions of people, and you’re talking about a country that couldn’t even exist.
These people — I almost don’t know. Is this politics? Because I think it’s bad politics. I think it’s bad politics. But we have to be very careful. And, you know, recently I walked into a meeting and I was with a group of people that I’ve, you know, generally I didn’t like. I never liked them. It’s a certain group of people. I have my likes and dislikes, and my — (laughter) —
And I walked into a room. There are a couple of hundred people — very substantial people. And I said, “Listen, I don’t have to make a long speech. Here’s the story: I don’t like you. You don’t like me. You have no choice but to vote for me. And you will do whatever you have to do.” And they said, “Yes, sir. We will. We will. We think you’re doing a great job.”
The truth is, look, you have no choice, because the people we’re running against are crazy. (Laughter.) They’re crazy. (Applause.)
And I have to say this: I don’t think there is that much. I think the biggest risk is the election, I’ll be honest. I think the biggest risk — because I actually believe some of these people mean what they say. I really believe that. And it’s just not — it’s just not acceptable. We have a very important election coming up. I think we’re going to do very well. I think we’re going to win it. I think we’re going to win it, hopefully, easily. But it doesn’t matter as long as we win it by a vote.
But it’s going to be something very important for all of you. I have to say, I have great respect for what all of you have done. I know so many of you. And we want to keep it going that way. Our country is strong. Our country is great. Our economy is probably the best it’s ever been. And we want to keep it that way.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
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