Donald Trump plots 'tough policies' to return jobs from China in meeting with CEOs

President Donald Trump told about two dozen chief executives of major US companies on Thursday he plans to bring many millions of jobs back to the United States.
Donald Trump holds a meeting with manufacturing CEOs in the State Dining Room of the White House.
Donald Trump holds a meeting with manufacturing CEOs in the State Dining Room of the White House.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump huddled with US manufacturing moguls at the White House on Thursday (Feb 23), discussing "tough policies" to bring "our jobs back" from places like China and Mexico.

Seeking to codify protectionist rhetoric that helped propel him to an historic election win, Trump renewed his promise to overhaul the way America does business with the world.

Between banter with chief executives from two dozen firms, an ebullient Trump promised "regulatory reform, tax reform and trade policies will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country."

"Everything is going to be based on bringing our jobs back," he said.

Much of the public meeting had a locker room quality, with Trump obviously in his element as he joshed about escapades in the boardroom and on the golf course.

He prodded General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to retell a story about a time a pre-presidential Trump shot a hole-in-one.

Trump said he prefaced the shot by saying "I was the best golfer of all the rich people."

In a similar jocular tone, he greeted Campbell's CEO Denise Morrison by saying "nice soup."

But Trump had cooler words for business partners in China and Mexico, singling them out for opprobrium over shifts in global trade.

"The United States lost one third of our manufacturing jobs since Nafta, an unbelievable number," he said, pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He added that "70,000 factories closed since China joined the WTO."

"When I used to hear that statistic, I used to talk about it, and I always thought it was a typo, I said 'it has to be a typo'," he said.

Trump has often used bruising rhetoric and fights with foreign countries to appeal to his base.

It is less clear how Trump will put those promises into action.

Industrial economists say it is highly unlikely that jobs lost to automation, recession and globalisation over decades are ever coming back.

And there are signs that his bareknuckle approach may have fewer supporters than the election suggested.

A Gallup poll on Thursday showed 50 per cent of Americans view China favourably, the highest level since before the Chinese government's brutal crackdown of protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989.