President Trump at 2019 White House Business Session with Nation’s Governors

Washington, DC…Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Please. Thank you very much.
As governors, we all sort of get together and we have a good time. But we also — we’re going to accomplish a lot. This going to be a very good meeting. Tremendous things are happening for our country.

I’m now — right after this meeting, I leave for Vietnam, where I meet with Chairman Kim and we talk about something that, frankly, he never spoke to anybody about. But we’re speaking, and we’re speaking loud. And I think we can have a very good — a very good summit. I think we’ll have a very tremendous summit. We want denuclearization, and I think he’ll have a country that will set a lot of records for speed in terms of an economy.

And I told you last night — it was a lovely dinner — but I told you how well we did with our trade talks in China. And it looks like they’ll be coming back quickly again. And we’re going to have another summit. We’re going to have a signing summit, which is even better. So hopefully, we can get that completed. But we’re getting very, very close.

Ambassador Lighthizer, Steve Mnuchin, a lot of folks in the room have been helping and that’s been great. And I just see our great Secretary sitting there. On drug prices, first time in 54 years that drug prices have actually gone down this year. So, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. That’s a great, great deal. (Applause.)

Today, it’s my honor to welcome our nation’s governors back to the White House after a wonderful evening last night. And I’m deeply grateful for your presence, your partnership, and your friendship — many of you are such good friends — as we work together on behalf of all Americans.

We’re here to forge bonds of cooperation between our federal, state, and local governments as we strive to deliver a safe, bright, and prosperous future for every community in our magnificent nation.

Thank you as well to all of my Cabinet Secretaries who are here today to share their energy, expertise, and devotion. They are devoted. They work so hard and they’re doing a terrific job. There are few — I say there are none — but there are few administrations that have accomplished what we’ve accomplished over the last two years and the first two years.

It’s been pretty incredible with tax cuts and regulation cuts — more regulations than any other administration in history, and that’s very important. And we still have regulation. But you don’t have 10 of identical regulations that you have to get approved and wiped out from different departments. So we’ve really cut it down.

A highway that would take 17 or 18 years of approval now takes probably two. And we’re trying to get it down to one. And it may be rejected on various grounds, including environmental. But we have it down to two, and we think we can get it down further. So it will be — that will be something. You know. You have many highways and many roadways, and they’re tied up for many years. And that won’t be happening too much anymore.

In my State of the Union Address, I outlined many bipartisan priorities that we all share: delivering fair trade; rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure — which we are going to work very hard on, because as governors, that has to be music to your ears. (Applause.)

And I would like — on infrastructure, I would like you to call your senators and call your congressmen and women and get it done, because I’m ready. I want to sign. I am totally ready.

Reducing the price of healthcare and prescription drugs — and we’ve made a lot of progress, as I said. First year in 54 years that prescription prices have gone down, which is a big statement. But we can get them a lot lower. We’re in the process, Mr. Secretary, of doing that.

Creating a safe and lawful immigration system, and keeping America safe.

We’re gathered today at a truly incredible time for our nation. Things are happening like rarely ever before. Since the election, we’ve created more than 5.3 million new jobs, including a half a million brand-new manufacturing jobs. And that number is going to go over 600,000 manufacturing jobs in just a very short period of time.

And if you remember, manufacturing jobs were never coming back to our country. Well, they are coming back and they’re coming back very strongly. And we have companies opening up in the United States that we thought we lost, that would never be back, and some are coming back and some are brand new and they’re big. And they’re coming in and they’re moving in, which is one of the reasons we need people to come in. They have to come in through a legal process. But with a 3.7 [percent] unemployment, we need to have people coming in. We need workers, frankly, because we have all of these companies pouring in.

We were just discussing — our great new governor of Michigan — last night, where you have some good news coming up very soon. And we have car companies opening up in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and so many other places. I was with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, and he was saying it could be seven different plants in a very short period of time, not to mention all of the plants that have already opened.

So, we need people. We have to have people and they have to come in, but they have to come in legally and through merit.

Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off of food stamps during this very short period of time. Blue-collar jobs are growing at their fastest pace in many decades. The unemployment rates for African Americans — and you’ve heard this many times — Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. And with women, it’s now 64 years. Lowest in 64 years. Soon, it will be historic.

So America now has, really, the hottest economy on Earth. Whenever I greet a prime minister or a president, or any leaders of any countries, they always start off by saying, “Congratulations on your economy. It’s been incredible. Congratulations.” And many of them are trying to follow our formula, which was cutting taxes, cutting regulations, and many other things.

We give incentives and we work very hard at getting companies to come back in. Those companies that left, we — in particular, we want to work. They left our country. They fired all of their workers. They moved to another country. They’re now coming back. It’s a great thing.

In a few moments, our first session on vocational training and workforce development will begin. We want every citizen to gain the cutting-edge skills they need to enjoy a rewarding, lifelong career. Many of the governors here today have identified this as a very top priority. My daughter, Ivanka, who is going to be speaking later, is — she has been so much involved. So incredibly involved. Where is Ivanka? Ivanka, keep — keep going. (Laughter.) Created — my daughter has created millions of jobs. I don’t know if anyone knows that, but she’s created millions of jobs. (Applause.)

So, because of our roaring economy, there are more opportunities than ever before to get sidelined workers — and these are people that lost jobs and have never gotten them back, but now they’re coming back and very, very rapidly — get these sidelined workers back into the labor force.

Last year, my administration created the Council for American Worker and launched the Pledge of America’s Workers, where we’ve gained commitments from private sector leaders to hire and train more than 6.5 million Americans. Think of it: 6.5 million. And these are jobs that, for the most part, would not have happened.

I was also proud to sign a modernized Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act into law. We believe two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American. It used to be a terrible thing when you said “America first.” People said all sorts of things: “It’s terrible. It’s a horror.” It’s “America First.” It’s “Make America Great Again.” (Applause.) It’s whatever you want to call it, but that’s the way it is.

I mean, you know very well. And some can’t say, and some can say proudly, but we would focus so much on other countries, it was almost like we put those — not almost. We put those countries ahead of ours. We actually took those countries and put them ahead of ours. We can’t do it. And we’re going to help other countries that we have great relationships. But we can’t do that anymore. It’s America first.

Today, we also will discuss the bold action we took to address economic inequality by establishing Opportunity Zones as part of our historic tax cuts. It’s incredible what’s going on. I don’t know, I think some of you really see it. Okay? You see what’s going with the Opportunity Zones. Far greater than anybody thought. And we’ve done a lot of them, and they have great incentives. And money is being put in by very rich people and rich companies in areas that you would have said nobody will ever invest in. We established incentives for investment in more than 8,700 distressed areas that you have designated in each of your states.

You’re designating some tough places. I say, “Can they give us some tougher places than that?” They are tough and it’s — incredibly, for the first time ever, it’s really working. The concept was always good but it wasn’t done properly. I want to thank you for partnering with us in this critical effort to lift up neglected and totally forgotten communities.

I also want to thank every governor here today who is supporting our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the USMCA. (Applause.) I’ve long said that NAFTA is the worst trade deal that any country has ever signed. It emptied us out. We had a surplus with Mexico and Canada, and we went to $130 billion trade deficit with the combination of Mexico and Canada. And this deal will bring it back.

We’re opening it up to farmers. We’re opening Canada, as an example — and Mexico — to farmers. They were closed. It was a closed shop. They had all sorts of non-monetary trade barriers. And they had monetary trade barriers. They were charging, for certain agricultural products, an almost 300 percent tariff. Nobody ever talked about it. Nobody ever knew about it. And I’d go up to Wisconsin and the farmers would say, “Sir, we can’t compete. They’re charging us 287 percent, to be exact.” I said, “You got to be kidding.” And we did something about it.

So the USMCA is very important. It will help our dairy farmers in Wisconsin; our wine makers in Oregon and Washington and California; our autoworkers in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and all over; and dozens of other states, and ranchers and farmers and growers and manufacturers from coast to coast. It’s a very, very comprehensive deal. It’s a deal that nobody thought we’d be able to get approved.

I was able to get it approved, to be honest with you, by using tariffs. I was putting very substantial tariffs — or was getting ready to — on Canada, who was very tough to negotiate. You know, we think of “Oh, Canada.” Well, “Oh, Canada” is tough. They’re tough. (Laughter.) And I said, “Look, you know, you’re either going to do this or we’re going to put 20, 25 percent tariffs on your cars that you ship in here by the millions.

And every time we had a problem, we’d just say, “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. We’ll put the tariffs on.” And they said, “Okay. Fine. It’s okay. We’ll sign.” It was a tough — it was a really tough negotiation. And same thing with Mexico. But in the end, we got it done and it’s a great deal for us, and it’s a very good deal, I think, for Canada and for Mexico.

They have to get it approved also. We have to get it approved. Let’s see what happens. And I think it probably will be. It should — I think from our standpoint — I know how much they hate me, but they have to hate me even more not to get this deal approved. Okay? That’s the only thing I can say.

To be a prosperous nation, we must also be a safe nation. We passed groundbreaking criminal justice reform. And I have to thank so many people for that. But this was where super- conservatives got together with super-liberals, believe it or not. I mean, I’m looking at names on both sides and right down the middle. Criminal justice reform, where people are put into jail for a pretty minor act — there’s nothing minor — but a pretty minor act, and they’re put in jail for 45 years and 50 years and there’s no chance of ever coming out. And it was a very — and it’s very tough, by the way. A lot of conservatives signed it, and signed it very willingly. In fact, they pushed it. They were pushing it, I think, as hard as the other side. But it’s very, very important.

Many states here today are following the same roadmap to help former inmates become productive and law-abiding citizens. And one of the thing that’s helping the inmates so much — you know this probably better than I do — the economy is so strong that inmates, for the first time, are getting jobs when they come out.

And I have a friend who’s hired seven or eight. I can’t say every one was perfect, but he said, “Five are — I’ll always have them. They’re great.” They got a chance. Nobody would hire them because they have that — whatever it is in the background. And it’s a very tough situation for them in the past.

But the economy is so strong. The economy — the strength of the economy became our best friend. They couldn’t get workers, and now they’re hiring people that they normally wouldn’t have. And the results are incredible. Companies all over the country are saying, “Wow, they are really — they’re really doing a great job.” And it makes me very happy. I think without that very powerful economy it couldn’t happen.

So, finally, to protect our communities, we must secure the border against human trafficking, drug smuggling, and crime of all types. The human trafficking is a tremendous problem where, mostly women, and they’re tied up and they’re taped up, and they’re put in the back of cars, and the car does not come through the port of entry.

I mean, you watch this — “Everything comes through it.” Ninety percent of the drugs don’t come through the port of entry. Ninety percent of the drugs and the big stuff goes out to the desert, makes a left, and goes where you don’t have any wall. I’m going to call it a wall. You know, they’d like me to call it a barrier. It’s a wall. It’s a big, beautiful, powerful steel wall that you can see through — which is very important to be able to see through. And if you don’t have it, you’re not going to have borders, you’re not going to have a country pretty soon. Because we’re spending a fortune. We’re doing an incredible job.

The Border Patrol has been amazing. The military has been amazing. I called in the military and they’ve been amazing. But if we had a wall, we’d save a fortune not only on drugs that are being smuggled into the country. And you’re talking about billions and billions and billions of dollars’ worth of drugs. But we’d save it just on not having to pay military, not having to pay so much on the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol can go to other locations and other places.

But I’ll say this: Border Patrol and ICE — and I’m proud of ICE because they go into areas where a lot of people don’t want to go, including law enforcement. These are tough, tough people that they’re dealing with. And you need tough people. The ICE people, they’re tough but they’re incredible. I mean, they’re just incredible in so many ways. They are patriotic people. They love our country. They want it to work. And they’ll go into situations that you want no part of.

When you look at these MS-13 gangs, sheriffs all over the country have told me, “We’re very happy to have ICE come in and take over.” Because this is a group of people that — hard to even understand how they could have developed this way. They’re mean. They’re sadistic. Their crimes are incredible. We’re taking them out by the thousands, and we’re bringing them back to where they came from. And in some cases, we’re putting them in jail. But, you know, then we pay for them for the next 40 years. But we’re bringing them back where they came from.

And I told Guatemala and I told Honduras, and I told El Salvador — three places where they send us tremendous numbers of people — and they’re rough people. They’re not sending us their finest. It doesn’t make sense. Why would they send their finest? They’re sending us some very — as I would sometimes say — rough hombres. These are rough, rough, tough people. Many criminal people.

And I told these three countries — you know, we send them $500 million a year. I said, “We’re not sending it anymore.” And you organize caravans, and these caravans that are coming up — we had one — and we’ve broken them up. I don’t know if you’ve been seeing. We’ve broken them up. We’ve gotten them broken up, in many cases now, before they get here.

But you take a look at Tijuana, Mexico: Thousands and thousands of people are sitting there, trying to get into our country. And if we didn’t have a wall there — that we’ve totally renovated and fixed — if we didn’t have that wall, it would be impossible even for the military to stop them. Because don’t forget, unlike other countries — and this is a good thing; I don’t want to create controversy because I hate controversy, believe me. (Laughter.) But unlike other countries, we don’t let people get shot. You know? We don’t have people standing there with the most sophisticated machine guns in the world and use them. Many countries do. Many countries do. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. This country can’t do that. But the barrier does it very simply. It just doesn’t let them in.

So you take a look at a place like Tijuana and other places. It’s incredible what that wall has done. And that’s not even the upper — you know, the most — the best of our walls. We have a great system now. We have a prototype. We have — I expect to have 250 to 300 miles of wall built in the very near future. Secretary Nielsen is here right now, and we have — we will shortly have about 200 miles under construction.

We just started a 47-mile patch. We have different patches. We bid it out tough. We have a much better prototype. It’s actually a beautiful wall. It’s a beautiful-looking — actually — you know, I’ve always said part of the wall was that previous administrations, when they did little walls, they built them so badly. So badly. It’s so unattractive. So — I wouldn’t want them in my backyard. And the new one is incredible looking. It’s a piece of art, in a sense. It’s still — and it’s, by the way, more effective. I mean, it’s more effective.

So we are doing a job. We’re getting it up. We have beautiful prototypes. We’re working with the Army Corps of Engineers. We’re total pros. And I don’t know if you saw what I put on Twitter, but I put on Twitter a piece of it. That’s not the new prototype; the new prototype has started in different locations.

But we’re going to be, pretty soon, having well over a couple of hundred miles of wall up. We don’t have to go 2,000. We never planned on going 2,000. It’s 2,000 from the Gulf to the Pacific; it’s 2,000 miles. But you have many natural boundaries, including really tough waters, which you don’t need the wall. We have very, very rugged mountain areas, which you don’t need the wall. Actually, if we do a really good job, and if we have some money left over, we might even throw them in areas where you would say you don’t need them because they’ll figure a way. That will be the area. That will become the weak spot. It’s like water; it just seeks its own.

But these people, they have the traffickers. They’re vicious, they’re smart — the coyotes. How about the name “coyote”? They have people tied up, put in the back of trucks and vans. They can’t go through checkpoints. They have to go through open areas. Can’t walk through. You can’t go through it. Because even if they don’t do much of an inspection of your truck or your car, they do open the back door, or they do look through a window. You can’t have women sitting there that are tied up.

So when I hear the other side say — and we have some of the other side here. But when I hear the other side say, “Oh, no, everything goes through the checkpoint,” that’s absolutely false. You have areas where you literally have roads that are carved in the sand that it’s used so much. They go right through these roads. They go right, they hang a left and hang another left, and “Welcome to the United States.” There’s nobody there to even talk to them. Because you’re talking about 2,000 miles. You’re talking about a lot of area.

So we’re doing really well on the wall — the emergency you’ve all been reading. We do have an emergency. We have an emergency of people pouring into our country that we don’t want — criminals, smugglers. We have drugs pouring into our country. We can’t have it. We can’t have it. We cannot allow this to happy to our country. Most drugs — most of the major drugs are coming through the southern border. This will make it — you’re never going to stop it completely, but we can stop it a lot.

One of the things that Ambassador Lighthizer and Steve, and all of the people that are working with China — the fentanyl is a tremendous problem. It seems to be made 100 percent in China. A hundred percent. Now, China is paying us, right now, billions and billions of dollars of tariffs a month. Every month, billions of dollars. I love it. Personally, I love it. But they’re paying billions of dollars. And it’s hurting them; it’s not good for them.

And I said to President Xi — I said, “President, you have to do me a favor. As part of our trade deal…” — it has nothing to do with trade, or certainly very little — but we’re having shipped over here, from China, fentanyl. It’s killing 88,000 people a year, and probably more. That’s just the ones we know about. It’s deadly. A little tiny spoonful can wipe out a state, it’s hard to believe. It can wipe out an entire state, a spoonful of this stuff.

And in China, they have a very, very tough penalty for drugs. It’s called the death penalty. And I said to President Xi, “You don’t have much of a drug problem. Do you have a drug problem?” “No. No drug problem.” I said, “So you have 1.4 billion people, and you don’t have a drug problem?” “That’s right. No drug problem.” I said, “What do you attribute that to?” “Death penalty. Quick trial.” They don’t have trials that last 19 years. At the end of a — the judge dies. Everybody dies. The only one living is the one that did the damage. No, they have what’s called a “quick trial.” It goes quick. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And if you’re a drug dealer, you’ll say, “You know what — maybe I’ll just sort of stay out of China.” Singapore, the same thing.

So I said to President Xi — I said, “You know, if you would criminalize the sale of fentanyl into the United States, you would be saving many, many lives.” It took me one minute, and he agreed. Because it’s not criminalized. I think they view it as an industrial drug or something. It’s not criminalized. And as part of our deal — and, Bob, don’t forget to put that down — but as part of our deal, I think we’re going to get a criminalization of fentanyl being sold into the United States. It’ll stop. (Applause.) It’ll stop. Very important.

And I have to tell you, I have to really thank President Xi, both for that, and he has been a big help with respect to North Korea. I have a very, very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. Very, very good. But we need all the help we can get. And as you know, about 92 percent of the goods going into North Korea go through China. And President Xi has been very good. He’s been very, very good.

Now, you know, it helps that we are in a strong trading position. But nevertheless, he’s been very strong and he’s, for the most part, held it. At the beginning, he was perfect. I told him the other day, “At the beginning, you were perfect. Now you’re good. Not quite as good. You got to get better.”

But maybe we’ll make a deal and then we won’t have to worry about that any longer. So that will be something really great. But he’s been great.

And the fentanyl is — they’re already working on that process. And, you know, I said, “Do you need any other approvals?” “No.” I said, “Well, that works a lot different than this country.” (Laughter.) He needs no other approval.

When I got the basketball players out — the three basketball players — that was a beautiful scene. I was in China. And you have these three, you know, potential stars — and I guess they’re going into the NBA draft, or just have — but I said, “Would you do me a favor? Three players were just arrested.” They were arrested for stealing — in Louis Vuitton — sunglasses.

And I wasn’t happy with those three players because they never gave our country much credit for having gotten them out. And believe me, they’d be in jail. Stealing in a store in China is a very big offense.

And I said, “Would you do me a favor?” I was having dinner with him at this incredible show that he put on in a ballroom, the likes of which few people have ever seen. It was an incredible evening. Melania is here. And I’m talking. And it just happened and they were arrested. They were put in jail. And I said, “Mr. President, could you do me a favor? Could you let the three basketball players out?”

He didn’t know about it. He called over to his people. He’s got 10 people standing behind him; every one is a central casting. Central casting. (Laughter.) Glasses, pad — boom. He went over — he came back. He reported within two minutes, explained, “Basketball players…” Bom. Bom. And I said, “It would be a great thing if you could possibly let them out.” He goes, “So be it. They’re out.”

I thought — I said, “Is this different than our country?” Huh? (Laughter.) It’s just a little bit different. And we got them out. Then we came back, and the one father said, “Well, we don’t know that Trump helped. I sent a consultant.” That consultant would’ve gotten nowhere.

But, you know, we just have a great relationship with so many of these countries. And I think in some cases it’s tough. There are many countries that take advantage of us very seriously, both at NATO and on trade.

The European Union is very, very tough. Very, very tough. They don’t allow our products in. They don’t allow our farming goods in. You people know. Many of you represent farm states. They won’t — you know that better than anybody. They won’t allow our farm products in. They don’t take any. They have these non-, you know, monetary barriers that are brutal. They’re worse than the — you know, than others.

The cars — they charge us big tariffs. And it’s very hard for a car to get in, number one. But if it does, they have to pay a big tariff, whereas we charge them almost nothing when they send their cars to us — Mercedes and BMW, and all of the things that they send.

So we’re taking care of it. I mean, we’ve informed them that, “Look, if you don’t — if you’re not going play ball…” President Obama, in eight years, couldn’t do a thing. They wouldn’t even meet with him. They said, “We have no intention of meeting.” They wouldn’t even meet with President Obama. They wouldn’t meet with President Bush.

EU is one of the toughest — maybe the toughest. Maybe, in certain ways, tougher than China, just smaller, from our standpoint. But they have to meet. And we told them, “Have to meet. Sorry. And if you don’t meet, we’re going to tariff the hell out of you.” And they’re going to meet. I mean, they’re going to meet.

But we lost last year with the European Union $151 billion. This has been going on for many years. Think of it — $151 billion. We take their product; they don’t take ours. We don’t charge them tariffs; they charge us tariffs.

Other than that, it’s a very fair arrangement. And, by the way, we pay for their military. Because we pay almost, getting close to 100 percent for their military. I’ve gotten them to put up over $100 billion toward NATO, which has made a big impact. But — so they have to treat us fairly. We want to have a great relationship. I have a great relationship with the leaders. But we have to be treated fairly.

So, overall, we’re doing a great job for our country. Our country has rarely done better. Maybe never done better from an economy standpoint. We’re very proud of it. And we have tremendous potential when we fix these trade deals, because we’re being ripped by everybody. We are just being ripped, because we lose $800 billion a year on trade. Think of it. It’s incon- — $800 billion. Nobody even knows what that means. And we’re fixing that all up. We start with Mexico, Canada, China. China is the big one. China is 50 percent of the number — even more. And we’re doing very well. That could happen fairly soon, or it might not happen at all. Okay? Might not happen at all, but I think it’s going to happen and it could happen fairly soon. The relationship is great.

So I just want to thank all of the governors for being here. You’re very special people. I think we have 17 brand-new governors. Right? Brand new ones. Very smart ones, like my friend. Huh?

Congratulations. It’s a great — you’re going to have — you have such an easy state. (Laughter.) That’s so easy. Great state of Illinois. What an easy state. I don’t know. Huh? Have you found it to be easier or tougher than you thought?

GOVERNOR PRITZKER: Well, you’re going to help us out. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I’ll help you out. I help everybody out. I’m going to help you. Congratulations.

It’s an honor to have you all at the White House. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

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