THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, Minnesota! (Applause.) It is great to be with all of you here at Gerdau Steel. And let me thank Chia Wang. Give him a round of applause -- will ya? -- (applause) -- not just for that introduction but for the warm welcome. So thank you all.
Thanks for making us so welcome today, and thanks for being such a great example of American ingenuity and American success. Gerdau is an example of how American steel is back, and this economy is roaring. (Applause.)
And as I get started, let me -- let me bring greetings from a friend of mine and a great champion of American steel and American manufacturing. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, from the earliest days of our administration, President Trump promised the American people that we were going to "fight for American workers and fight for American-made steel." And that's exactly what we've done.
In just over two years' time, we've rolled back federal red tape. We've unleashed American energy. We've forged free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals around the world. And this President signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history. That's what we call promises made. (Applause.)
And the results have really been remarkable. In just over two years, businesses just like this one all across the country -- businesses large and small -- have created 5.8 million new jobs, including 48,800 jobs right here in the state of Minnesota. (Applause.)
The unemployment rate, you might have just heard, has hit a 50-year low, and it's the lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans. (Applause.) The American Dream is working again for every American. (Applause.)
And I'm proud to report to all the hardworking people here at Gerdau that wages are rising at their fastest pace in more than a decade, and wages in America today are rising the most for blue-collar, hardworking Americans. The forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more! (Applause.)
You know, it really is remarkable to think the last administration saw America lose about 200,000 manufacturing jobs. And the last President said we'd never get those jobs back. I remember, back in 2016, the last President actually said, "What are you going to do to bring those manufacturing jobs back? Are you going to wave a magic wand?" Remember that?
Well, we didn't need a magic wand. We just needed President Donald Trump in the White House. (Applause.)
I mean, the truth is, since President Trump's election, businesses large and small have actually created nearly 500,000 manufacturings all across America, including more than 2,000 right here in the state of Minnesota. Manufacturing is back in America! (Applause.)
In fact, I'm actually told that 2018 was not only the best year for manufacturing job creation in more than 20 years; it actually marked the highest level of optimism among manufacturers ever. I mean, manufacturing has come roaring back thanks to the policies that we've been advancing under this President's leadership
And American steel has come roaring back as well. So far, this year, I just heard that America has produced 33.6 million tons of steel. That's almost 7 percent increase in production over the same time last year. American steel is producing again for America and the world. (Applause.)
It's amazing. Steelmakers, like all of you gathered here, are running at the highest level of capacity since September of 2008. And companies like this are making it all happen each and every day.
You're doing the work that's bringing American steel back. And there are too many stories to tell about what makes all that work. But I know when I talk to Chia, I met with a lot of the employees earlier touring this factory, the success of Gerdau, the success of American steel is not just a result of policies that create conditions, but it's men and women, just like all of you, that are doing the work that are bringing American steel back.
It's people like one of your employees who's actually worked at Gerdau for 16 years. I'm told he's currently a refractory group leader in your melt shop. He's a leader in other parts of the community as well. I mean, what I found back when I was governor of the state of Indiana and our steel industry there, and I've heard again today, is that steel workers make a difference not only in the steel mills but you all make a difference in the lives of your communities every day. And it's just true of the employee I'm talking about today.
He's actually a staff sergeant in the Minnesota Army National Guard. He served in the uniform of the United States for 21 and half years. He did a tour in Iraq, a tour in Kuwait. But for all his accomplishments, he likes to tell people his most impressive title is D-A-D. He's a proud father of two young boys, a dedicated husband. Would you all give a big round of applause for Pat Carpenter? Where are you, Pat? (Applause.) Thank you, Pat.
And join me in thanking Pat Carpenter for his service to this country. (Applause.) Pat is a great example of what makes American steel strong: It's American steel workers.
I'm also told one of your employees has worked as a quality assurance administrator clerk for Gerdau for 43 years. When she started, she was actually the only woman working here at the plant. But what truly made her stand out was her incredible work ethic she got from growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. I'm told that her mother used to say, "If you want to hire a good employee, hire a farmer." (Laughter.)
But she's more than a good employee. She's not only made a difference here at Gerdau. She's been active in her church. She's helped raise money for baseball and soccer fields in her community. She's even accomplished in theater. And most important of all to her, she's a grandmother of four. Would you give a big round of applause for Debbie Kariesch? Debbie, where are you? (Applause.) Great job. Say hello. Come on.
MS. KARIESCH: Ah, golly. Hey, this is an honor. I'm so impressed. (Laughter.) Thank you guys. I'm glad you like me. (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Thank you, Debbie. Thank you, Pat.
You both are -- you're just emblematic of really what makes American steel strong. It's the people that work in America's steel. You're really the backbone of an industry and, in so many ways, the backbone of America.
I mean, really, you're the people that make American-made steel happen. And you're creating jobs and opportunities, and you're living the American Dream. So thanks for being who all of you are. Just give yourselves another round of applause. (Applause.) This is an incredible view, seeing all these great Americans who make American steel happen.
You know, for everything we've accomplished in this country in the last two years, it's a testament to all of you and a testament to the leadership that we've had, and this President and the support we've had with partners in the Congress and at every level.
But I really did want to say "thank you." Thank you for stepping forward to work in this industry. It's a strong industry and it takes strong people to be a part of it. And thank you for bringing opportunity back for every American. It's truly inspiring to see.
But I also came by today to tell you that we need your help. We need the help of men and women that work in steel and work in -- work in every part of this economy here in Minnesota. Because to keep the momentum in this economy rolling, we know that we've got to level the playing field for American workers by forging trade deals that put American jobs and American workers first. And that's exactly what President Trump and I have been doing since the first day of this administration. (Applause.) True.
From Europe to the Pacific to Asia, we've been fighting unfair trade practices. As we gather here today, there's a Chinese delegation at the White House negotiating to level the playing field and open the doorway to more American products and free, fair, and reciprocal trade with China.
And the truth of the matter is, the days of undermining American manufacturing and undercutting American workers are over. (Applause.) America is making a stand for free and fair trade. (Applause.)
But the time has come -- the time has come, as well, not just to negotiate with other countries around the world, but we've got a new deal on the table. It's called the USMCA, for short. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It is the largest trade deal in American history, and it is time for Congress to pass the USMCA and keep this economy moving, Minnesota. (Applause.) True.
It's really why I'm here today. That's why I was at a farm in northern Minnesota earlier today. I've literally been traveling all across the country talking about how important it is to get the USMCA passed, and talking about the difference that it's going to make for companies like Gerdau, for employees like all of you, for American steel, American manufacturing, and American farmers.
And the truth is the USMCA, we believe, will actually impact more than 2 million American manufacturing jobs that depend on exports to Canada and Mexico today. We believe it's absolutely essential, because the USMCA will finally allow American workers to compete and win on a global stage as never before. We're going to level the playing field, and Americans are going to win like never before with our neighbors to the north and our neighbors to the south. (Applause.) Seriously.
And that wasn't always true under NAFTA. I mean, we all know the story. I'm from down in the state of Indiana. You know, NAFTA worked for some parts of our economy, helped agriculture a little bit. But the truth of the matter is, in manufacturing -- in manufacturing, NAFTA created incentives. We actually saw, literally, thousands of factories, since mid-1990s, leave the United States and go south of the border. Well, those days are over.
And the truth is, it's those same manufacturing jobs that that American steel supports every day. I mean, think about it: Much of the steel that you produce is used in auto parts. But NAFTA actually was written more than a quarter of a century ago. More than a quarter of a century ago. I mean, that was before almost any of my kids were born. All right? And they're all out of college. It was before Bluetooth. It was before Sirius radio. It was before computerized navigation systems, GPS -- any of the major innovations that we take for granted today.
I mean, the truth is, it doesn't require that any of these parts are made in the United States of America. They're not mentioned in the agreement and so they're excluded from it.
And as some of you who understand the NAFTA agreement know, that means if they're not mentioned, they're deemed to have been manufactured here. It essentially creates a falsehood as you have new innovation, new technologies -- they weren't comprised in the agreement, and so it disadvantaged American jobs and American workers.
The truth is, under the old deal that we're setting aside, though American cars face all kinds of tariffs and trade barriers all around the world, companies would be able to buy auto parts from China, assemble them in a car in Mexico, and sell them duty-free into the United States of America.
That men and women of America's steel industry, I'm here to tell you: As soon as we pass the USMCA, those days are over. (Applause.) The playing field is going to be leveled for American workers in the automotive industry. We're going to level the playing field and treat the automotive industry right and fair, and it's going to be a win for American workers, American jobs, and the automotive industry, and in American steel.
We're not going to allow an outdated trade deal to undercut American workers and undermine good-paying jobs anymore. I mean, the jobs that you all have are the kind of jobs that built our middle class in the past, and they're rebuilding our middle class today.
Under the USMCA, the American worker is going to be able to compete on that level playing field. And we know -- we know even if the playing field is even close to level, Americans win every single time.
But we've got to get it done. The clock is ticking. And it's really why I'm here. I mean, I came here just basically to congratulate you all on the success and the comeback of American steel. But I really do need your help. I really do need you to spread the word about the time for Congress to act is now. We need Congress to approve the USMCA, and we need Congress to approve the USMCA this year.
The truth is, we've done our jobs. The President has done his job. Now it's time for Congress to do their job and pass the largest trade deal in American history. (Applause.)
But I came by because American steelworkers have a voice. And right now, we need American steelworkers to be heard. And we need Minnesota to be heard. We need to hear from, really, the heart of the Heartland on this important trade deal, because things are happening in this country. It's incredible the progress that we're making. It really is.
I mean, to see the kind of growth that we have -- the numbers are all there. You hear the statistics are there. The 3.2 percent growth in the first quarter. But what means more to me is when I travel across this country and I meet with Americans, and I hear the opportunities that are opening up.
You know, as I stand before you today, with the labor report that just came out, this is the 13th month in a row where there are more job openings in America than there are Americans looking for work. (Applause.) Thirteen months in a row. And that had actually never happened before in American history, prior to those 13 months. This economy is roaring again, but we've got to -- we've got to keep the accelerator on.
You know, one of the most -- one of the funniest things I ever hear is sometimes people will tell me -- they'll grab my hand across a rope line or at an event, and they'll say, "Tell the President to just keep going." Well, I've got to tell you there's -- that's something you never need to tell President Donald Trump. (Laughter.) I mean, as we say down in the Hoosier State, all the reverse is stripped out of that pickup truck. It only goes forward. And we're just getting started to get America growing again. (Applause.) But we need the USMCA to build the momentum.
So I want to encourage every one of you -- your leaders not only in this great company of Gerdau, but your leaders in your families, your leaders in this community -- I want you to go out and tell the story and tell people the difference that this USMCA is going to make in your industry and for this company, and for American manufacturing.
Tell them how this agreement is going to lead to more investment and more jobs right here in the USA. And tell them why, once we pass the USMCA, we're going to set all new records for "Made in the USA." You go tell them, will you? (Applause.)
So thanks for coming out today. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can before I head back to Washington, D.C.
But in the days and weeks that lie ahead, I'll make you a promise: The President and I are going to continue to work every single day to keep this economy growing, to bring the American Dream back for every American, and to ensure that the nation's steel industry and manufacturing across this country continue to grow. Because when American manufacturing succeeds, when American steel succeeds, America succeeds.
We're going to keep fighting for the policies you've supported over the last two years that have revived this economy, revived manufacturing, and revived American steel. We're just asking for your help to keep it going.
You're the leaders. You're the hands and feet of an industry that's vital. It's vital not only to our economy, but as you all well know, it's vital to our national security. American steel is the very framework of our national defense. And so I encourage you to let your voice be heard.
Once the USMCA goes into effect, I promise you: We're going to keep this economy growing. We're going to reach heights that you could never imagine.
And with President Donald Trump in the White House, with your continued support across this industry and across Minnesota, with hardworking people across this country taking advantage of that renewed American Dream, and with God's help, we're going to make America safer and more prosperous than ever before. And the best is yet to come for Minnesota and America because we will make America great again.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless American steel. (Applause.) And God bless America.