WASHINGTON, D.C. North Carolina’s own Cheerwine was honored at the White House on Monday as part of Made in America Week. The cherry-flavored soda celebrates 100 years in business this summer and was chosen to represent North Carolina as one of 50 products made in each state of the union.”We’ve made Cheerwine in the Carolinas for the last 100 years, and this recognition is a nod to the generations of hardworking North Carolinians who’ve been part of our team, helping to build Cheerwine into the company it is today,” said Joy Harper, director of marketing for Cheerwine and fifth generation family member.Before signing a proclamation making this Made in America Week, President Donald Trump promised on Monday he would take more legal and regulatory steps to protect American manufacturers, lashing out against trade deals and trade practices he said have hurt U.S. companies. He told manufacturers that his stance on trade was one of the primary reasons he was elected.”You construct and harvest the products that fill our homes, defend our nation and enrich our lives. I want to make a promise to each and every one of you that no longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, steal our jobs and drain our wealth,” Trump said to applause from manufacturing representatives in the audience.With cases of Cheerwine stacked by his side, Trump pledged an intensive six-month focus on the challenges facing American manufacturers. Trump also climbed into an American-made fire truck parked behind the White House, took a swing with a baseball bat in the Blue Room, and briefly donned a customized Stetson cowboy hat in front of cheering manufacturing company executives from all 50 states gathered to hear him praise their products.Trump’s remarks came as his administration laid out a tough negotiating strategy for revising the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Trump is also reviewing options to restrict steel imports.”Once again we will celebrate craftsman producers, innovators, like the incredible men and women in this room today,” said Trump. “We will protect our workers, promote our industries and be proud of our history. We will put America first again. We will meet in this same room in a year and in two years and we will see what happened.”In a much-anticipated document sent to lawmakers ahead of talks expected next month, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the Trump administration aimed to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by improving access for U.S. goods exported to Canada and Mexico, the two countries in NAFTA besides the United States.The 17-page summary lists among the priorities elimination of a trade dispute mechanism that has largely prohibited the United States from pursuing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against Canadian and Mexican firms.It also plans to eliminate a range of nontariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico. These include subsidies and unfair pricing structures.USTR said it would seek to strengthen NAFTA’s rules of origin to ensure that the pact’s benefits do not go to outside countries and to “incentivize” the sourcing of U.S. goods. It offered no details on such incentives and did not specify how much of a product’s components must originate from within North America.Lighthizer said the negotiations would begin no earlier than Aug. 16, 2017.Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization of unions representing 12.5 million workers, said NAFTA had been an “unequivocal failure” and should be completely renegotiated.”We will do everything we can to make this a good agreement and to hold the president at his word and make sure we get a renegotiation,” Trumka told a conference call with reporters. “If it comes out that it is not a good deal, no deal is better than a bad deal.”NAFTA has quadrupled trade among the three countries, surpassing $1 trillion in 2015. Over a decade to 2010, however, the U.S. lost nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs. The U.S. trade balance with Mexico also swung from a small surplus in 1994 to deficits that have exceeded $60 billion for most of the past decade.Trump told the manufacturers gathered Monday at the White House that he was working for a “level playing field” for their wares.”But if the playing field were slanted like a little bit toward us, I’d accept that also,” Trump said.
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