Updated July 27 at 2:37 p.m. - STLPR journalist Jason Rosenbaum joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to provide further analysis and a behind-the-scenes look at the president's visit.
Original story from July 26:
President Donald Trump offered up a passionate defense of his trade policy during a visit Thursday to Granite City, and predicted that Friday’s economic numbers will back him up.
“The days of plundering American jobs and wealth, those days are over,’’ Trump said, touching off cheers from an enthusiastic crowd of about 500 invited guests gathered in a warehouse that’s part of a steel mill complex being reopened by US Steel.
Flanked by signs that declared, “Protect AMERICAN Workers,’’ Trump said during his 50-minute address: “This is the time to straighten out the worst trade deals ever made in history.’’
The president added later, “Everybody knows we’ve been ripped off for so long.”
His audience included some of the 800 steel workers who’ve been hired at the Granite City Works steel mill, which is being reopened by US Steel.
“If you don’t have steel you don’t have a country,’’ Trump said, emphasizing his belief that resurrecting the nation’s steel mills is a national security issue.
His supportive audience included William Mullen, who has been working at the Granite City mill for about two weeks. Mullen said he left another manufacturing job.
“I’m making now about twice as what I was,” Mullen said. The resurrection of the steel mill, he said, is “going to change the whole city.”
Trump asserted that untold numbers of American steel workers have lost “their jobs, their hopes and their way of life” over the past decades because of government missteps.
The president was accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who told the crowd, “This president and this administration loves its steelworkers.”
Before Trump appeared on stage, top US Steel officials led a chant of “Start Up, Stay Up!”
US Steel President David Burritt was among the speakers who called for Trump to stand firm with his tariffs imposed on imported steel and aluminum, saying that was the best way to help American workers.
“It does indeed feel like a renaissance for US Steel,’’ Burritt said.
Promises end to agricultural pain
But Trump’s tariffs have particularly hurt the nation’s agricultural industry, which has been the target of retaliation by foreign countries hurt by them. That’s why the administration this week announced $12 billion in farm aid.
The University of Missouri’s Commercial Agriculture Program released a study Thursday concluding Trump’s trade policies has cost the state millions of dollars in economic activity.
Almost a third of Missouri's annual soybean crop had been destined for China, but those sales now are uncertain. The study said the state's soybean prices have dropped nearly 20 percent this summer.
Trump said Thursday that he cares for American farmers, and that he’s optimistic his trade deals will reward them.
Sam Stratemeyer, a soybean farmer and businessman from Metropolis, Illinois, trusts Trump to resolve the tariff stand-off.
Stratemeyer was among several audience members who noted that soybean prices have shot up just since the president’s meeting Wednesday with an official of the European Union who indicated that Europe was ready to purchase more American farm products.
“He’s not going to preside over a declining America,” Stratemeyer said.
Crowd backs Trump on trade
Gary Seitz from Springfield, Illinois, who’s in the financial industry, is equally impressed with Trump’s push for tariffs. “Being tough on tariffs is going to work,’’ Seitz said. “I believe in what he’s doing.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, Illinois., was among the GOP elected officials at the event. Davis praised the president for tackling the complicated trade issues.
“China single-handedly has tried over the years to decimate our domestic steel industry,” Davis said. “And this administration, working together with the Republicans in Congress and through economic growth we haven’t seen in our lifetimes, we have now seen these people back to work.”
Davis added that he shared farmers’ concerns about the tariffs, but he’s confident the matter will be solved. “We don’t want the $12 billion in aid to even be used,” the congressman said.
Kevin Harris and Marianne Laury hang "Imperialist Fantasy Flag," a piece by artist Wonder Koch, outside Granite City Art and Design District and STNDRD. There is a star on the flag for every country in the world. Kevin Harris and Marianne Laury hang "Imperialist Fantasy Flag," a piece by artist Wonder Koch, at .Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public RadioEdit | Remove
Trump blasts press, calls for GOP support
The president meshed his remarks on various issues, from Russia and immigration to his 2016 election, with periodic barbs against the news media.
Pointing toward the press section, the president declared that “the fake news back there’’ was “dying for us to make any little mistake.”
But Trump said he was succeeding because the public was behind him. "With your help, we are lifting up workers all across our land," he said.
He also told the crowd that his policies depend on what happens in November: “You’ve got to vote Republican, folks.”
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