President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday night in North Carolina that the US should view trade “almost as a war.”
Trump promised the Fayetteville crowd during the second leg of his “Thank You Tour” that his administration would renegotiate trade deals and “defeat the enemy on jobs.”
“And we have to look at it almost as a war, because that’s what’s happened to us,” the president-elect said. “That’s what’s happened to our workers.”
Trump’s use of the word “war” might worry political leaders who have repeatedly expressed concern that the president-elect’s tough talk on trade could ignite a trade war with another country.
On Monday, for instance, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to support Trump’s proposal to impose a 35% tariff on companies that leave the US, saying he didn’t “want to get into some type of trade war.”
The president-elect has previously dismissed the idea of a trade war.
“These dummies say, ‘Oh, that’s a trade war.’ Trade war? We’re losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump rhetorically asked an audience in May.
Throughout the campaign, Trump promised to be tough on trade, going as far as to say during a rally earlier this year that the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations would lead to “a continuing rape of our country.”
Since taking office, Trump and Indiana Gov. and Vice President-elect Mike Pence cut a deal with Carrier that provided the company with $7 million in tax incentives over 10 years to keep roughly 1,000 jobs, a portion that were set to be exported to Mexico, at an Indianapolis plant.
In his speech on Tuesday night, the president-elect also reiterated his promise to punish companies that “fire their workers” and “leave our country.”
“And if a company wants to fire their workers, leave our country, and then ship their products back into the country, there will be consequences,” Trump told the crowd. “I’m sorry, there will be consequences. Big consequences.”
Trump took aim at China as being a main culprit for the loss of many manufacturing jobs in the US, and said the country is “living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world.”
“There’s never been a jobs theft like what’s happened to this country,” he continued before mentioning the deal with Carrier. “And we stopped some of it, a little bit, because we started, we just started.”
Trump also pointed to voters who supported his tough-on-trade rhetoric, which was likely a major reason he was able to pull out victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin
“Boy did they come out to vote,” he said. “Remember when they said they don’t exist? They existed! They existed! Believe me … Millions and millions of people poured out to the voting booths. And they voted big league.”
The next stop on Trump’s “Thank You Tour” is set for Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.