President Donald Trump pledged to promote an American auto boom Wednesday, announcing a regulatory measure that auto companies have backed while saying he would protect their workers.
Speaking at a testing center for self-driving vehicles in Michigan, Trump again promised to boost manufacturing by encouraging companies to hire and produce in the United States while punishing those who do not. He highlighted pledges to roll back regulations and tweak trade deals that he deems bad for the U.S., like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"We're going to use the full economic powers of our country to protect our workers and to protect our jobs," Trump said following a meeting with members of his Cabinet; executives of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler; and union leaders.
"The assault on the American auto industry, believe me, is over," Trump said. That industry was, of course, the recipient of a roughly $80 billion government rescue package after the financial crisis.
Trump made his remarks at the facility standing in front of a banner with his administration's "Buy American, hire American" mantra, one he has touted in several economic speeches. His own companies have not always followed that rule.
Shortly before Trump started speaking, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would review Obama administration fuel economy standards that automakers have argued would make regulatory compliance costs rise. The standards would increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model-year 2025. The EPA said it will have to determine by the beginning of April 2018 whether the guidelines are "appropriate."
"These standards are costly for automakers and the American people," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a statement. "We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic."
Environmentalists have argued that rolling back the standards will bolster America's reliance on fossil fuels and could exacerbate climate change. Trump's broader push to trim federal regulations and shrink government agencies have led to concerns that American health and environmental standards will relax.
He teased another unspecified "very big announcement" related to the auto industry coming next week.
Trump has used his position to publicly criticize companies who previously moved production or jobs outside of the country, promoting a level of protectionism not typically seen in Republicans. He says his economic agenda — including broad tax cuts and regulatory rollback — will encourage companies to manufacture and invest in the U.S.
Trump's promises to scrap trade deals that he said harmed blue-collar workers helped him to win Michigan, the first time a Republican did so since 1988. Trump critics have argued that his economic agenda, particularly his tax plan, could end up helping wealthy Americans much more than working-class individuals.
On Wednesday, he trumpeted announcements from General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler that they would either retain jobs in the U.S. or invest more in American facilities since he won the 2016 election. But some of those plans were in the works well before Trump's electoral victory.
GM on Wednesday announced that it would add or retain about 900 jobs at three Michigan facilities, with 220 of them new. The company said its decision was not due to Trump's new policies.
GM previously announced that it would lay off 1,100 people starting in May. It expects to bring 500 of those laid off back in early 2018, and another 180 in the near future, NBC News reported.
Before Trump's speech, White House spokesman Sean Spicer released a picture of the automotive policy meeting.