Asheville Citizen-Times: In Fletcher visit, Mark Meadows touts U.S. manufacturing efforts amid trade war with China
In Fletcher visit, Mark Meadows touts U.S. manufacturing efforts amid trade war with China
Dillon Davis, Asheville Citizen TimesPublished 7:47 a.m. ET Aug. 15, 2019 | Updated 11:39 a.m. ET Aug. 15, 2019
FLETCHER — U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows touted the value of American-made products during a tour of a motorcycle exhaust systems manufacturer this week while also acknowledging the squeeze some companies are experiencing as the trade war with China roars on.
The four-term congressman and a well-known ally of President Donald Trump told Rinehart Racing employees Aug. 14 that the country should take pride in U.S. manufacturing efforts. Having spoken with Trump by phone earlier in the day, Meadows said they each are focused on trade issues, particularly as there's some "nervousness" about the costs of raw materials and the effects tariffs are having on consumers, including employers like Rinehart.
But he said visits to Western North Carolina employers help connect him to industry experts to hear about "real-life implications" of policy decisions from people in the best position to know them.
"What I’ve found is as you get to meet people – and it’s more than just a handshake – as you get to talk to them and meet with them, they’ll come up with ideas that perhaps have been thought about but maybe not prioritized," he said. "For me, it’s understanding that trade policy has real implications on all the workers here."
He adds, "It’s a great story of an Asheville company doing well, and I want it to do well."
Meadows spoke to company employees for about 10 minutes from a podium in front of a large American flag surrounded by Rinehart boxes as well as motorcycles containing exhaust systems developed in the building. He then toured the facility, stopping at various stations to discuss each task with employees there.
In his address, he joked that it was the closest his mother, a nurse, would have ever let him get to a motorcycle.
"The older I get and the grayer I get, the more that I’d love to get on one and take off," he said.
He was introduced by Rinehart President and CEO Judson Hollifield, who called Meadows "one of the most influential members" of Congress.
"He’s here to see you," Hollifield told employees. "He’s here to hear you. He’s here to see how people make your place of work, your community, your state and even your country a better place for you. And why? One reason: He cares about you."
Meadows, 60, won North Carolina's 11th congressional district, which encompasses much of WNC, including Buncombe County, in 2012. He is chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, one of two North Carolina Republicans counted as members. In the 116th Congress, he sits on two committees: Oversight and Government Reform, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
He's also frequently been a defender of Trump. Per Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, he votes in line with Trump's positions nearly 90% of the time. He briefly was considered to replace John Kelly as White House chief of staff when he exited the role last year, according to various news reports.
Kelly later was replaced by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
Once Meadows completed his remarks, he opened the floor to employees for questions. Hearing none, he offered a story of a past interaction with Trump and ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the issue of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that was considered by some to be controversial.
Meadows said he'd "very passionately" stated his case on the potential move to Priebus and others — but not Trump — before departing a meeting at the White House. In his drive back to his local residence, he was again summoned back to the Oval Office by Priebus to chat directly with Trump. The two met in a side office adjacent to the president's working office space when Meadows said he became distracted by something sitting on the table between them.
"I kept looking down and in front of him was about a 12-inch block of wood with a red button on it," he said. "So I would talk to him, like I’m talking to you, in the eyes, and then I would look down at the red button. I talked back to him and I went back down to the red button. He finally notices that I’m getting distracted. He said, 'Makes you nervous, doesn’t it?' I said, 'No, no, it doesn’t make me nervous at all.'"
Trump then decided to press the button, Meadows said.
"My eyes got as big as silver dollars and I’m looking for incoming, anywhere," he recalled. "What in the heck did he just punch? Out of the side door to my right is this Marine dressed in full uniform. He comes walking out of this side door and puts a Diet Coke right there in front of the president. So, it was a red button for the Diet Coke.
"I said, 'Well that was pretty neat.'"
The Meadows visit was a welcome one for Hollifield. He said he and Meadows discussed trade issues for much of the visit, telling a reporter that Rinehart is seeing increases in the prices of raw materials including aluminum and steel. That said, he noted they're still committed to American manufacturing and will "wait out the storm" until tariffs go away.
But Hollifield said he felt concerns were well understood by the congressman.
"I'm very pleased Congressman Meadows, he's not only cognizant the trade tariffs are having, he's also very empathetic about it," he said. "He's doing everything he can in an effort to work with the White House and recognizing the imbalance we've had for a number years with China, trying to find a resolution to that."https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2019/08/15/in-fletcher-visit-mark-meadows-touts-u-s-manufacturing-efforts-amid-trade-war-with-china/1997846001/
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