(UPI) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday traveled to Wisconsin to act on one of the central tenets of his administration so far — keeping jobs inside the United States — by signing a new executive order aimed at guarding domestic labor.
Trump visited the Kenosha, Wis., headquarters of tool-maker Snap-on Inc., where he reiterated his encouragement to “buy American, hire American.”
“The ‘Buy and Hire American’ order I’m about to sign will help protect workers and students like those of you in the audience today,” the president said in a speech. “This historic action declares that the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods.”
Trump said his order aims to reevaluate U.S. trade deals with foreign governments and enforce ‘Hire American’ rules — saying too many domestic jobs have been taken by foreign workers through widespread “abuses” in the United States’ immigrant work visa program.
“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery, and that’s wrong,” he said. “Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans. No one can compete with American workers when they are given a fair and level playing field.
“The American people voted to end the theft of American prosperity. They voted to bring back their jobs and to bring back their dreams.”
Trump’s executive action Tuesday orders federal agencies to revamp the H-1B visa program — to make it more difficult for tech companies to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. The order will also strengthen rules prohibiting foreign contractors from bidding on government projects.
“With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world — we are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first,” Trump said. “America first, you better believe it.”
The order directs the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to crack down on fraud and abuse in H-1B guest-worker programs by issuing new immigration rules. The Commerce Department will also review federal procurement rules and trade agreements in an effort to put American firms at an advantage during contract bidding.
“We will fully monitor, uphold and enforce our ‘Buy American’ laws, which we haven’t done,” the president said. “Buy American laws require that when the federal government buys bills or funds a project, domestic goods and products should be used.”
Earlier this year, Trump said he mandated the use of U.S.-made steel after learning that the Keystone XL oil pipeline was made with imported steel. He made similar remarks about “Hire American” in February during a visit to a Boeing plant in South Carolina.
“With this order, I am directing every single agency in our government to strictly uphold our ‘Buy American’ laws … and to maximize ‘Made in America’ content in all federal projects,” he said.
Trump has signed previous orders aimed at improving trade deals and rejecting “dumped” steel, which occurs when foreign governments export steel at a lower price than it would sell for domestically. Those orders pledged to crack down on violators and Trump said, “Those who break the rules will face the consequences, and they will be very severe consequences.’
“We are going to crack down on foreign bidders that use dumped steel and other subsidized goods to take contracts from workers like you. They take them away and they have been doing it for a long time. Not going to happen anymore.”
“This is the policy that ensures no one gets left behind in America anymore — that we protect our industry from unfair competition, favor the products produced by our fellow citizens and make certain that when jobs open those jobs are given to American workers first,” the White House said in a statement.
“We are finally standing up for our workers and for our companies. … We are going to investigate every single trade deal that undermines [domestic labor],” Trump continued. “We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first, does that make sense?”
In his remarks Tuesday, Trump said the new order is another step in his future vision for the United States, which also includes ramping up focus on other areas he believes the country has fallen behind.
“We are going to spend again on NASA, the space program,” he said, echoing a desire to re-dominate the space race. Earlier this year, NASA indicated it’s thinking about making a return to the moon quicker than previously planned. “That’s something we need, and we need it psychologically. It’s going to be very exciting.”
During his campaign last year, Trump received critical support from several blue collar states that typically vote Democratic — such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — due to his repeated promises to bring back American jobs.
Trump has made multiple steps so far in keeping with those pledges, including orders aimed at reviving the declining U.S. coal industry — an enterprise some experts have dismissed as impractical and ineffective.
“The people of Wisconsin, you have been so incredible to me and my administration and we will never, ever let you down,” the president concluded. “God bless you, God bless the American worker, God bless the American dream and God bless the United States of America.”
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