THE WHITE HOUSE – President Donald Trump’s meeting with General Motors CEO Mary Barra this afternoon in the Oval Office is likely to be a contentious one.
The meeting is closed to the press and GM declined to discuss with TMN the topics of discussion. But likely subjects include several closures of assembly plants in Ohio and Michigan, current United Auto Workers (UAW) contract negotiations, California’s fuel economy deal with four competing auto makers, and trade with China.
Trump has been attacking GM – and Barra – in a long string of tweets throughout the 2-1/2 years of his presidency. Last week, he erroneously accused GM of moving jobs to China:
General Motors, which was once the Giant of Detroit, is now one of the smallest auto manufacturers there. They moved major plants to China, BEFORE I CAME INTO OFFICE. This was done despite the saving help given them by the USA. Now they should start moving back to America again?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
GM makes about $2 billion a year selling cars made in China to the Chinese. None of those cars are sold in the United States. The tweet came soon after Trump had called for all U.S. companies to pull back from China.
In March, Trump tore into Barra over GM’s closure of its Lordstown, Ohio plant:
Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors about the Lordstown Ohio plant. I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly. She blamed the UAW Union — I don’t care, I just want it open!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2019
A day after that tweet, Trump announced in another one that talks between GM and the UAW – an important constituency for his 2020 reelection – would open up in September:
General Motors and the UAW are going to start “talks” in September/October. Why wait, start them now! I want jobs to stay in the U.S.A. and want Lordstown (Ohio), in one of the best economies in our history, opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast! Car companies…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2019
Then in May, Trump tweeted:
….in 3 separate locations, creating another 450 jobs. I have been working nicely with GM to get this done. Thank you to Mary B, your GREAT Governor, and Senator Rob Portman. With all the car companies coming back, and much more, THE USA IS BOOMING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
Another point of contention is the possibility that GM may join Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen to comply with strict auto emissions standards drafted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), mandating average fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards are in line with the Environment Protection Agency’s rules under President Barack Obama. CARB’s clean air quality standards challenge Trump’s attempt to roll back those standards to 37 miles per gallon by 2025.
Trump, who calls climate change “a hoax,” tweeted in August:
My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer. Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
Critical to the meeting between Trump and Barra, Trump’s reelection campaign is focusing on garnering votes from the UAW in critical swing states. Over Labor Day weekend, the campaign flew banners in cities where the UAW has a strong presence: Detroit; Cleveland; Milwaukee; Erie, Pa.; and Virginia Beach, Va. The banners read: “Trump-Pence thanks our great American workers” and “Text ‘Jobs’ to 88022.”
Pundits might argue that Trump needs the workers’ votes more than they need him. Claiming that the upswing of the U.S. economy depends on him, Trump told attendees at his Aug. 15 rally in Manchester, N.H.: “You have to vote for me.”