WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump, championing his plan to bring more jobs back to the U.S., reiterated his pledge Wednesday to impose a border tax on imports of companies that move offshore, while detailing how he will separate himself from the Trump Organization.
Trump also gave a shout out to Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault, who met with him in separate meetings on Wednesday and pledged to help create more jobs in the U.S.
“We’ve been meeting with a lot of companies,” Trump said. “But what really is happening is the word is now out that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or to some other place and you want to fire all of your workers from Michigan or Ohio and all of these places that I won [in the election] for good reason, it’s not going to happen that way anymore,” Trump warned.
“You are going to pay a very large border tax,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to impose a tax on the imports of companies that close their factories in the U.S., fire their workers and move offshore. He has pegged the tariff as high as 35 percent on those imports, although he did not cite a specific tariff percentage at the press conference.
It appears some of his warnings combined with job-growth proposals have convinced some companies to forgo plans to build plants elsewhere and keep jobs in the U.S., as well as encourage new companies to invest and expand in the U.S.
Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had a hand in convincing air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier not to move jobs to Mexico, for example, and Fiat Chrysler revealed plans to build a plant in Michigan, although the company said it made its decision independently.
Arnault said after a meeting with Trump on Monday that he is considering expanding his factories, including two in the U.S. Arnault is looking at sites in North Carolina and Texas and also said he is considering expanding an existing factory in San Dimas, Calif.
Ma also met with Trump and discussed how the e-commerce giant could create one million jobs in the U.S. by allowing thousands of small businesses to sell goods in the Asian marketplace.
“We had Jack Ma, we had so many incredible people coming here — Mr. Arnault. They’re going to do tremendous things in this country and they’re very excited,” Trump said at the press conference.
One key component of Trump’s plan to revive U.S. manufacturing and maintain or expand employment in the U.S. is the concept of a border tax.
Trump and Congressional Republican leaders have said comprehensive tax reform is a top priority this year. The House GOP blueprint on tax reform released last year included a “border adjustability tax” that is similar to what Trump has proposed.
Essentially, the border tax proposed by House lawmakers would be assessed on the full value of imports, but not on U.S. exports.
Companies that import products can deduct the cost of the product, including materials and labor costs, when determining income taxes, according to industry officials. However, under the House GOP proposal, companies would not be allowed to deduct any of those costs on imported products.
U.S. companies, on the other hand, would be able to continue to deduct the cost of their products if made here and would only be taxed on the profit.
But that proposal is already running into opposition from business groups, including the National Retail Federation, American Apparel & Footwear Association and Retail Industry Leaders Association. Those groups recently outlined their concerns in a letter to House Ways & Means chairman Kevin Brady (R., Tex.). They said such a tariff imposed on imports would result in higher costs, a pullback in employment, reduced capital investments and higher prices for consumers.
Trump has not let up on his vow to impose some sort of border tax.
“You can move from Michigan to Tennessee and to North and South Carolina and you can move South Carolina back to Michigan,” Trump said. “You’ve got a lot of states at play, a lot of competition.…You’ve got a lot of places you can move and I don’t care as long as it’s within the United States.”
Trump also said he will hand his real estate business over to his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, but will not fully divest his assets.
Sheri Dillon, Trump’s attorney, outlined the structure of the new business agreement at the news conference. She said Trump will place his assets in a trust that will be controlled by his sons and Weisselberg. Trump has also canceled all of the company’s pending business deals and will step down as an executive of the company.
Ivanka Trump, as expected, will have “no further involvement with or management authority” with the Trump Organization, Dillon confirmed. She will move to Washington, D.C. with her husband, Jared Kushner, who has been named senior adviser to the president.
In addition, any profits made at Trump hotels from foreign dignitaries staying there will be donated to the U.S. Treasury, Dillon said.
The Trump Organization will not make any new foreign real estate deals, although it will continue to make domestic real estate deals that will be fully vetted by an “ethics officer,” she said.
“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company that he built,” Dillon added.