Trump signs measure aimed at bolstering 'Buy American' initiative

Expands requirements to federal agencies

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President Donald Trump holds up an executive order he signed during a meeting with members of Congress and American manufacturers, to strengthen the administration's buy American policy, in the Oval office on Jan. 31, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

(CNN) - President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday intended to expand his "Buy American, Hire American" initiative to encourage agencies to apply such requirements to new types of government purchases.

"We want American roads, bridges and railways and everything else to be built with American iron, American steel, American concrete and American hands," he said at an Oval Office signing ceremony alongside lawmakers, agency heads and members of the manufacturing community.

Peter Navarro, director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy at the White House, told reporters Thursday morning that the executive order intends to "encourage agencies and the heads of agencies to apply 'Buy American' requirements that are possible under the law to what's called federal financial assistance. What federal financial assistance is, is everything from loans, loan guarantees and grants, to cooperative agreements, insurance and interest subsidies."

He added: "This (executive order) basically makes clear that we extend the coverage for 'Buy American,' not just to things like iron and steel and aluminum, but also to cement and other manufactured products."

The order comes on the heels of Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn announcing Wednesday that the company is looking to adjust plans to invest $10 billion in a high-tech manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. Foxconn is now instead planning to recruit researchers, designers and engineers into a "technology hub" rather than opening a factory -- a move that caught state officials off guard.

Trump took credit for the initial plan that would have expanded jobs for blue-collar workers, but remained silent Wednesday following the news.

While Trump himself didn't comment on the Foxconn news, a White House official said: "The President has created one of the strongest business climates in American history because he lowered taxes and massively cut regulations -- and while it's encouraging Foxconn will bring 13,000 new jobs and billions of dollars to Wisconsin, we would be disappointed by (any) reductions to the initial investment."

In the press call prior to the new executive order signing, CNN's Joe Johns pressed Navarro on what the new executive means for Foxconn and manufacturing jobs. Navarro said it had "nothing to do" with this executive order.

Navarro spent much of the call touting the administration's work in creating manufacturing jobs, saying, "It's stunning the success that this President has had in doing something that his critics said could not be done, which is to revive manufacturing in America."

But even as Foxconn indicates it won't follow through with plans to manufacture LCD screens in Wisconsin, manufacturing does appear to be on the upswing as a whole, at least in terms of jobs growth in the sector.

The manufacturing sector added 284,000 jobs last year -- the best annual net gain since 1997. In 2017, the sector added 207,000 jobs.

Still, despite the gains, the US manufacturing industry remains a shadow of its former self, representing just 11.6% of US GDP in 2017, a decline from 2011 when the industry began seeing net jobs growth again following the recession.

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