WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump doubled down on his vow to impose a 35 percent tax on the imports of companies that ship jobs overseas, under tough questioning from “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, who questioned whether Trump’s intervention in prodding companies to stay in the U.S. is really a free market philosophy.
Referring to the recent involvement by Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence in convincing air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier not to move jobs to Mexico, Wallace asked: “Should the President of the United States be calling companies?” (Trump does not take office until his inauguration on Jan. 20.)
Trump also apparently said at a recent rally that he has asked for a list of 10 more companies that are said to be considering outsourcing with plans to call them as well, Wallace said.
“How would [it be] if [President] Barack Obama gets on the phone and says ‘Hey Donald here’s what I want you to do [with your] business?'” Wallace asked.
“I would have been honored,” Trump replied.
Trump said he does not have to intervene directly but can have aides call companies directly and again repeated his vow to impose a 35 percent tariff on the imports of companies that shutter their factories, fire workers and move offshore.
“We are going to have to impose a major tax when companies leave, build their product [offshore] and think they are going to sell it right through our border like we are a bunch of jerks,” Trump said.
Carrier, owned by United Technologies Corp., had announced it planned to close a plant in Indiana and ship jobs to Mexico. After Trump and Pence stepped in, the company said it would not make the move, preserving nearly a reported 1,000 U.S. jobs, although that number has been disputed by the union representing the workers. As part of the deal, Carrier will receive $7 million in tax incentives over 10 years from the state of Indiana to keep the jobs in the U.S.
Wallace persisted, noting that companies that make those decisions are operating on free market principles.
“That’s not the free market when they go out and they move and they sell back into our country,” Trump countered. “No, it’s the dumb market. I am a big free trader but it has to be fair.”
Trump said the U.S. has lost 70,000 factories over a “short period” of time and asked how that has happened.
“We’re being stripped of our workers. We are being stripped of our jobs, our good jobs are really going down. We’ve got to stop it,” Trump said. “The only way you are going to stop it. The nice way is we are reducing taxes, very substantially for companies so they are not going to have to leave because of taxes. We’ll be reducing regulations. Those are the nice ways of doing it and everyone loves it and everyone’s happy.”
But Trump insisted on maintaining punitive tariffs on imports if a company moves offshore.
“When a company wants to move to Mexico or another country and they want to build a nice beautiful factory and they want to sell their product through our border…and the people [all get] fired…we end up with unemployment and debt,” Trump said. “And they end up with jobs and factories and all the other things. It’s not going to happen that way.
“The way you stop it is by imposing a tax,” Trump added. “Now I’ve come up with a number of 35 percent, there is no tax if you don’t leave. There is no tax at all.”
One prominent House leader has already refused to back such a punitive tariff proposal. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) reportedly declined to support any legislation to enact such a tariff and voiced concern it could potentially spark a trade war.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has also refused to embrace Trump’s tariff proposal, saying overhauling the corporate tax code is the most effective way to convince companies to stay in the U.S.
The business community is also concerned about Trump’s proposal.
Trump took a jab on Sunday at the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which has come out against the Carrier deal.
“People have said they don’t understand really what I’m doing. I read the Wall Street Journal the other day, and honestly their editorial board doesn’t get it,” Trump said. “I don’t think their editorial board understand business.”
The Journal’s editorial, published on Dec. 1., argued that Trump’s “squeeze” on Carrier might actually lead to more U.S. job losses if chief executives refrain from building more plants here if they find it to be “politically difficult to close them.”
The editorial board called Trump’s involvement with Carrier “arm-twisting” and also stated that “workers don’t prosper when politicians force companies to make noneconomic decisions.”
“The better strategy is to support him when his policies promote growth and try to block him when he veers into big-government cul-de-sacs. In that spirit, his Carrier shakedown is a short-term political victory that will hurt workers and the economy if it becomes the norm for the next four years,” the Journal said.
Trump said Sunday the Journal’s board “does not understand what I’m saying.”
“There’s a 35 percent tax but there is no tax if you don’t move. But if you move your plant or factory and you want to sell back into our country, you fire all of your people, there are going to be consequences for that. There are going to be consequences,” he said. “You know what’s going to happen? I’ll tell you. Nobody is going to move. They are not going to move. They are not going to leave. They are going to stay here.”