Trump to speak at annual conservative forum, as some question his immigration, trade views

US President Donald Trump will address the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, on Feb 24, 2017.
US President Donald Trump will address the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, on Feb 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump takes the stage on Friday (Feb 24) at an annual conservative forum, looking to plant his personal stamp firmly on the political movement even as some activists fret that his immigration and trade policies go too far.

Mr Trump will address the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, which has focused on how to fulfill long-held Republican goals to revamp the US tax code, repeal federal regulations on industry, and repeal former Democratic President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

With Mr Trump in the White House and Republicans holding majorities in Congress, CPAC and the thousands of conservative activists who flock to the event each year from across the country are seeing their political influence rising.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Mr Trump talked about imposing some form of a border tax to encourage more US manufacturing, called the Chinese "grand champions" of currency manipulation that hurt US exports and talked of expanding the US nuclear arsenal.

Several CPAC attendees voiced concerns about some of Mr Trump's actions during his first month in office, and are worried he might take the US economy in the wrong direction in the months ahead.

Ms Abby Oliver of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who interns for a local Republican Party organisation, said that while she wanted to see the United States gain better control of its borders, she had some concerns about the "controversial" executive order Mr Trump issued in late January temporarily barring entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries on national security grounds.

A federal court has put that order on hold.

Ms Oliver said the order, which caused protests and chaos at airports the weekend after its enactment, was "rolled out a little bit haphazardly" and she is worried that Mr Trump could go too far on immigration policy.

"I don't want it to become people being ripped apart from their families," Ms Oliver said.

Ms Veneta Gilchrist of West Palm Beach, Florida, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, called Mr Trump's immigration actions "extreme". She said she was hoping to hear the President talk about repealing Obamacare, a core campaign promise that has so far made little headway in Congress.

Mr David Burke of Dover, Delaware, who said he spent 30 years in the US Air Force, wanted to hear Mr Trump talk on Friday about all the issues he promoted during the presidential campaign.

"I think almost everything he's been saying is going to put the country in the right direction," Mr Burke said, adding he approved of Mr Trump's immigration policies and his emphasis on keeping businesses in the US.

During his run for the White House, Mr Trump promised to rip up trade deals he said treated US companies and workers unfairly. He has already announced the US will drop out of a vast Pacific Rim trade deal and renegotiate the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

In place of multilateral trade arrangements, Mr Trump has promised to negotiate stronger bilateral trade pacts and impose tougher sanctions on countries deemed to be trading unfairly.

That troubles Mr Tyler Wadsworth of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who turned 18 after last November's election, too late to vote.

"I am not a big fan of (trade) tariffs. I feel like it's a tax on people. I really want to hear what he has to say about that," he said.

For Mr Eric Golub, who described himself as a politically conservative Jewish comedian from Los Angeles, Mr Trump must concentrate on making sure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.

"This (CPAC) is fun. This is Disneyland for conservatives," he said. "I want him (Trump) to give the speech, go back to Washington and let's get back to work."