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7/26/2018  Trump's celebrates U.S. steel renaissance during first Illinois visit


By Greg Bishop and Dan McCaleb | Illinois News Network  Jul 26, 2018 Updated Jul 26, 2018
President Donald Trump celebrated the return of the U.S. steel industry during a speech Thursday inside a reopened Illinois steel plant.
"Our steel workers are going back to work in record numbers, you notice?" Trump said. "We are once again pouring new American steel."
Thursday's event was held at U.S. Steel's Granite City Works plant, which was shuttered in 2015. About 2,000 workers lost their jobs. But in the wake of Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the local plant restarted two furnaces earlier this year and recalled 800 workers.
David Burritt, CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation, attended the event and thanked Trump for his policies putting American interests first.
"It does indeed feel like a renaissance here for U.S. Steel," Burritt said. "We have a lot of work to do. ... We need to make U.S. Steel great again. We are so fortunate to have this type of leadership at this point in time."
Trump said he had two important priorities: "Buy American and hire American." He said decades of bad trade policies benefited other countries at the expense of the U.S.
“Our steel towns became ghost towns," Trump said. "More than 70,000 hard-working Americans lost their jobs.”
The president said his tariffs on foreign steel is the reason for the revival.
"Thanks to our tariffs, idle factories across the country are steaming back to life," he said.
Trump said American-produced steel is important for the economy, but also for the country's security.
“We need steel mills for national security, remember that,” he said. "We know American steel is the best steel in the world."
A reinvestment in U.S. steel also will help with a reinvestment in the U.S. military, including new ships, plans and other equipment, he said.
Patricia Bertrand, an administrative assistant in Primary Operations at the plant, said her and many other local families were devastated when the Granite City plant shuttered.
"It is great to see the plant up and running, everyone back to work, and the community thriving," Bertrand said.
While Gov. Bruce Rauner cited campaign conflicts for not attending the event, Trump's first trip to Illinois since he was elected, three Republican Illinois U.S Congressmen – U.S. Reps. Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus – did attend.
Davis, R-Taylorville, talked about the impacts of the foreign steel tariffs before the event.
“When you look around this room and this building today, just a few months ago this plant was shuttered and the folks that are sitting around us excited because they have a job because this decision to really focus on the steel industry, it’s for them this matters most," Davis said. "Because just a few years ago when the Obama administration was asked to help when they see a country like China try to decimate our domestic steel industry, they didn’t help. This administration did and these families are back to work, that’s what matters the most."
Davis said he was concerned about the agricultural tariffs, however.
"I’m very concerned about the retaliatory tariffs that we’ve seen proposed, but I’ve let the worry be known, let that concern be known," he said. "I’ve asked the administration to show us some results and they certainly did yesterday with the agreement with the EU [European Union on trades] and those are the types of results that I hope they continue to get even with countries like China."
Hundreds of protesters gathered near the plant before the event started. The protest was organized by the Democratic Party of Illinois.