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Trump promised to "stand up" for American companies Monday

He touted his administration's efforts to bolster US manufacturing

Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump struck a protectionist tone on Monday as he promised to fight to protect and grow American manufacturing during a White House event showcasing American-made products.

Surrounded by Gibson guitars, Stetson cowboy hats and other “Made in America” products, Trump promised to “stand up” for American companies and their employees, warning that the US would take retaliatory action against other countries’ “unfair trade practices.”

“We have countries that charge us 100% tax on a product. And when that product is sold by them to us, we brilliantly charge them nothing,” Trump said, with a tinge of sarcasm. “People say, ‘Oh that’s free trade.’ No, that’s stupid trade. That’s really stupid trade. It’s incredible.”

Remarking that he was elected on promises of reigniting American manufacturing, the President touted his administration’s efforts to bolster US manufacturing and strip away burdensome government regulations and promised he would do more to level the playing field for US companies.

But Trump offered up no new policy or specific action that would advance those goals, signing only a symbolic “Made in America” proclamation and promising still-unrevealed policies that would make US manufacturers “so happy.”

“Over the next short period of time you’re going to see things announced that you won’t even believe for our country and for selling product in our country and making product in our country and things that are great for American jobs,” Trump said.

The day provided an opportunity for Trump to turn the page away from the Russia-related controversies swirling around his administration and instead provide images of him marveling at a host of products made in all 50 US states.

After a week of headlines focused on the President’s eldest son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, the White House announced Saturday it was dubbing the coming week “Made in America” week, reviving its deployment of themed weeks designed to detract attention from the Russia controversies.

The President hammered the “America First” rhetoric of his campaign and drew on the words of presidents who ruled more than 100 years ago to make his case, quoting Presidents George Washington, James Garfield and Theodore Roosevelt.

Drawing on Roosevelt, Trump touted the importance of “reciprocity” in the US’ trading relationships with other countries.

The remarks come as Trump is weighing the possibility of imposing tariffs or quotas on steel imports to protect the US steel industry and as other countries have chafed at Trump’s protectionist tone, warning against a backslide away from increasingly free trade policies between countries.