President-elect Donald Trump fired another warning shot Sunday at U.S. companies considering moving their operations out of the country, threatening "retributions or consequences" such as a hefty border tax if they do.
The pronouncements came in a string of early morning tweets. Trump declared that he intends to incentivize businesses to stay in America by lowering corporate taxes and slashing regulations, two key components of his economic agenda. But he also warned that companies with offshore factories would face a 35 percent tariff on goods sold back to the United States:
"The U.S. is going to substantialy reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country,"
"fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. ......"
"without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies ......"
Trump's comments follow his direct intervention in an Indiana factory owned by Carrier, which makes heating and air conditioning units, where production was scheduled to shift to Mexico. Trump announced last week that he had negotiated a deal to keep the plant in the state. Indiana promised to provide Carrier about $7 million in incentives, while the company would invest $16 million in the factory over the next two years.
"Please be forewarned before making a very expensive mistake," Trump said on Twitter. "THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS."
About 800 jobs that had been slated to move to Mexico will remain at the plant, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. About 300 to 600 Carrier positions -- including 700 at one of the company's other factories in the state -- will still be cut.
On the stump, Trump espoused an aggressively protectionist stance toward international trade, and his skepticism of the benefits of globalization resonated with many middle-class voters that bore the brunt of its downside.
But since his election, his advisers have softened some of his most heated rhetoric. Trump's pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross both said that they would pursue bilateral trade agreements with other countries but remained wary of sweeping regional deals. Ross also said that blanket double-digits tariffs on goods from Mexico and China -- which many economists warned could spark a damaging trade war -- would only be used as a last resort.
But Trump's comments Sunday indicate that he is not backing away from one key pledge: to punish companies that offshore jobs.
"We're living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world," Trump said last week.
Trump celebrated the deal with a tour of the factory last week, followed by a rally in Cincinnati to kick off his "Thank You tour." On Capitol Hill, some conservatives criticized the deal as a government distortion of the free market, while liberal lawmakers called the tax breaks a corporate subsidy. But business groups generally welcomed the move.
"Now, hundreds of Indiana workers will now keep good jobs, preserving their place in the middle class," Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a statement Friday. "While inducements and high-level interventions aren't the most efficient ways to keep jobs here, they're sometimes absolutely necessary."