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On his first visit to Wisconsin since taking office, President Donald Trump came to Kenosha, a city once synonymous with manufacturing, to sign an executive order as part of his "Buy American, Hire American" agenda. It’s aimed at boosting jobs in the United States.
Speaking April 18, 2017 at Snap-on Inc., a tool manufacturer, Trump made a claim about China. He implied it had a hand in the loss of American jobs, saying:
For too long, we’ve watched as our factories have been closed and our jobs have been sent to other faraway lands. We’ve lost 70,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization. And you’ve seen that, you’ve heard about it -- 70,000. The World Trade Organization -- another one of our disasters.
Congress cleared the path for China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization, which deals with the rules of trade between nations and works for open trade. The entry spurred investment in China and produced a lot more movement of goods -- leading to broad agreement that the change cost America millions of jobs.
But how many factories? And were there other factors?
Trump’s claim is nearly the same one he made a month earlier at a rally in Kentucky, when he said: "Since China joined — that’s another beauty — the WTO in 2001, the U.S. has lost many more than 60,000 factories."
PolitiFact National’s rating was Mostly True.
Here’s what our colleagues found:
The latest-available U.S. Census counts, for 2014, show the number of American factory establishments has dropped to below 300,000. The decrease since China joined the World Trade Organization was nearly 61,000, according to one Census tally, and more than 73,000 according to another.
Some of that decline is due to China’s becoming a bigger player in the world economy by joining the WTO, as our colleagues reported:
Around the same time China joined the WTO, the United States gave China permanent normal trade relations status. Both of these actions removed significant barriers to trade and investment with China, basically putting them on an even playing field with the United States’ other trading partners. In the 16 years since, United States imports from China have quadrupled, in large part because production is so cheap there, making U.S.-based manufacturers less competitive. We found three significant economic studies from the past few years that all conclude increased free trade with China has had a negative impact on American manufacturing and jobs.
At the same time, experts said the loss of factories was also brought on by other factors, including U.S. trade deficits with other parts of Asia and Europe; a slow recovery after the Great Recession; and increased manufacturing productivity in the United States.
For its part, China maintains that its entry has led to global economic growth.
Trump said: "We’ve lost 70,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization."
The latest U.S. Census figures, for 2014, produced two counts: 73,000, which supports Trump’s claim, and 61,000. And at least some of the losses can be attributed to increased trade with China.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
As he prepared to visit Wisconsin, Trump’s record on the Truth-O-Meter -- on statements fact checked since he’s been president -- shows roughly two-thirds of his statements have been rated near the bottom of the meter.
C-SPAN, video (10:25) of Donald Trump remarks, April 18, 2017
Email, special assistant to the president and assistant communications director Steven Cheung, April 19, 2017
PolitiFact National, "Trump: Since China joined WTO, U.S. has lost 60,000 factories," March 20, 2017
PolitiFact National, "Trump gives half the story on trade deals, the Clintons and factory jobs," July 21, 2016
PunditFact, "MSNBC's Ed Schultz: Trade deals closed 50,000 factories," April 23, 2015
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