Donald J. Trump vowed on Tuesday that as president he would put an end to policies that send American jobs overseas, threatening to impose tariffs on Chinese imports and promising to punish companies that relocate their manufacturing to countries with cheaper labor.
“It will be American hands that remake this country,” said Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, standing before a hunk of aluminum at a recycling plant in western Pennsylvania.
But such declarations are at odds with Mr. Trump’s long history as a businessman, in which he has been heavily — and proudly — reliant on foreign labor in the name of putting profits, rather than America, first. From cheap neckties to television sets, Mr. Trump has benefited from some of the trade practices he now scorns.
Besides construction, Mr. Trump is big in the clothing business. But most of his line of suits, ties and cuff links bear a “Made in China” label. Some also come from factories in Bangladesh, Mexico and Vietnam. He has blamed China’s currency manipulation to argue that it is almost impossible to find garments that are made domestically these days, or that they are prohibitively expensive.
“The answer is very simple,” Mr. Trump told ABC News when asked about his merchandise in 2011. “Because of the fact that China so manipulates their currency, it makes it almost impossible for American companies to compete.”
Despite that claim, some companies such as Brooks Brothers continue to make clothes in the United States.
Furniture and Housewares From Abroad
In 2013, Mr. Trump teamed with Dorya, a Turkish maker of luxury furniture, for his Trump Home brand. In a news release at the time, the Trump organization promoted the craftsmanship of the pieces, which furnish some of Mr. Trump’s hotels. “The entire production process, from the moment the raw wood is cut until the product is finished or upholstered occurs in Dorya’s Izmir, Turkey, production facility,” the release said.
Mr. Trump also invested in a line of crystal bearing his name to go with his Trump Home line. The collection was produced in Slovenia, the home of his wife, Melania. Mr. Trump told The New York Times in 2010 that the production facilities were first class.
“I’ve seen factories over there, their glass and crystal works are unbelievable,” he said.
Putting the Polish to Work
Mr. Trump has not held back when it comes to his concern that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs from American workers, but he has used them on occasion.
In 1980, a contractor hired by Mr. Trump to demolish the Bonwit Teller building in New York and make way for Trump Tower used undocumented Polish immigrants who reportedly worked round-the-clock and even slept at the site. Mr. Trump said that he did not know they were undocumented and later settled a lawsuit over the matter.
Last summer, The Washington Post found that Mr. Trump was using undocumented immigrants for the construction of his Trump International Hotel at the site of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington.
And The Times reported this year that Mr. Trump has employed hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Mr. Trump said that he found it difficult to find qualified local people to work there during the high season.
For Outsourcing Before He Was Against It
While Mr. Trump has for years railed against trade and currency policies that he says are unfair, he has not always been opposed to outsourcing.
Writing on the Trump University blog in 2005, Mr. Trump acknowledged that foreign labor was sometimes needed to keep American companies from going out of business.
“If a company’s only means of survival is by farming jobs outside its walls, then sometimes it’s a necessary step,” Mr. Trump wrote. “The other option might be to close its doors for good.”
Mr. Trump usually makes the case that foreign labor is necessary to keep production costs down, but in an interview with David Letterman in 2012 he also offered a humanitarian argument for outsourcing. Teased for selling dress shirts that were made in Bangladesh, Mr. Trump expressed pride that he was creating jobs around the world.
“That’s good, we employ people in Bangladesh,” Mr. Trump said. “They have to work, too.”
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