By David Wise
KENOSHA: President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday following a speech at Kenosha-based manufacturer Snap-on Inc. that he said is aimed at boosting the federal government’s use of American made goods and ensuring companies hire American workers.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure more products are stamped with those wonderful words, ‘Made in the U.S.A.,'” Trump told the crowd.
Trump’s executive order will implement a review of agencies’ compliance with federal policy calling for the use of American-made products and a review of how the U.S. can change the process for awarding H-1B visas, which allow companies to hire skilled workers from other countries.
“With this action we are sending a powerful signal to the world: we’re going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first,” he said to applause and cheers.
Trump said the executive order seeks to reform the process by which visas are given to foreign workers.
“We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first,” he said to applause. “Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay. This will stop.”
The order also declares that the federal government’s policy is to “aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure American labor is hired to do the job,” Trump said.
He added that existing policies requiring the purchase of American goods “have been gutted by excessive waivers and reckless exemptions,” which he said has resulted in “countless” contracts and jobs being lost to “cheap, subsidized and low-quality foreign goods.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Dems said Trump’s executive order doesn’t do enough, as they called on the president to take “real action.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a vocal advocate for Buy America legislation, said she’s willing to work with Trump and “take action that respects Made in Wisconsin hard work with real reforms and results.”
And U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who said the nation “desperately” needs Buy America policies, suggested that Trump “stand up” to congressional Republicans and House Speaker Paul Ryan to pass legislation.
“While Trump is announcing this executive order in Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, Republicans in Congress remain firmly opposed to expanding our Buy America standards,” Pocan said. “Instead of standing up for American workers, they consistently rally around legislation that strips these requirements and sends taxpayer dollars to companies that ship jobs overseas.”
At the event, Trump praised Snap-on, saying over the decades its tools “have been at the center of our industrial life.”
“For decades this company has served the needs of American workers,” Trump said. “It’s time we have a federal government that does the same.”
Snap-on CEO Nicholas T Pinchuk, who introduced the president, said Trump is “a president who listens to business” and called for working to boost the skills of American workers.
Among those joining Trump at Tuesday’s event was Gov. Scott Walker; U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh; U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau and Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who Trump called the “pride of Kenosha.” House Speaker Paul Ryan missed the event because he is out of the country as part of a bipartisan visit to several NATO countries.
Behind Trump as he spoke was a flag fashioned from tools, including stripes made out of red and white wrenches. Also on the stage were sets of tools and large toolboxes.
Trump also promised to help resolve a trade issue with Canada that has left scores of Wisconsin dairy farms without a buyer for their milk.
“What’s happened to you is very, very unfair,” Trump said, “It’s another typical one-sided deal against the United States and it’s not going to be happening for long.”
He said he would work with Walker and the state’s congressional delegation to help resolve the issue.
“We’re going to work on that immediately — in fact, starting today,” Trump said. “It’s a terrible thing that happened to the farmers of Wisconsin.”
Johnson told reporters after the speech that he and Walker talked with Trump about the dairy dispute.
“What they’re doing is clearly protectionist and obviously it’s hurting Wisconsin dairy farmers,” Johnson said. “And so we’ll start those discussions.”
Johnson said he will likely soon speak with the Canadian ambassador about the issue.
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This post has been updated with additional details and reaction.