WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump met with a dozen prominent American manufacturers at the White House on Monday, promising them he would slash regulations and cut corporate taxes, but warning them of penalties if they moved production outside the country.
Trump, who took office on Friday, promised to bring manufacturing plants back to the United States during his campaign, and has not hesitated to call out by name companies that he thinks should bring outsourced production back home.
He told the chief executives of Ford, Dow Chemical, Dell Technologies, Tesla and others that he would like to cut corporate taxes to the 15 per cent to 20 per cent range, down from current statutory levels of 35 per cent - a pledge that will require cooperation from the Republican-led US Congress.
But he said business leaders have told him that reducing regulations is even more important.
"We think we can cut regulations by 75 per cent. Maybe more,"Trump told business leaders in the Roosevelt Room.
"When you want to expand your plant, or when Mark wants to come in and build a big massive plant, or when Dell wants to come in and do something monstrous and special - you're going to have your approvals really fast," Trump said, referring to Mark Fields, CEO of Ford, who sat around the boardroom style table.
The new president told companies that they were welcome to negotiate with governors to move production between states, but said those businesses that choose to move factories outside the country would pay a price.
"We are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the product when it comes in," Trump said. "A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States, and build some factory someplace else, and then thinks that that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States - that's not going to happen," he said.
Trump was scheduled to hold a meeting later on Monday with labour leaders and U.S. workers, the White House said.
Trump, a Republican who took over from former Democratic President Barack Obama, was also expected to sign executive orders to renegotiate the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, and to formally withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Between winning the presidential election in November and taking office, Trump hosted a number of US CEOs in meetings in New York, including business leaders from defence, technology and other sectors. He also met with leaders of several labour unions, including the AFL-CIO.
Trump, a real estate developer, has particularly focused on manufacturing, lamenting during his inaugural address on Friday about "rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation" and vowing to boost US industries over foreign ones.