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Trump promises to improve American economy at Duluth meeting with miners

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In a spruced-up Duluth, Minn., warehouse, President Donald Trump sits in the center seat during a roundtable discussion about the economy on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Forum News Service photo4 / 4

DULUTH, Minn. -- President Donald Trump promises to continue an effort to improve the economy and cut federal regulations.

He spent more than an hour Wednesday, June 20, in a Duluth harborfront warehouse talking about iron ore and copper mining, trade and his relentless effort to cut government regulations. Later, he emphasized his work on the economy to a nearby political rally of 9,000.

At his roundtable, Trump was in friendly territory with about 200 supporters -- many of them representing mining, construction and shipping interests -- gathered in a spruced-up Lake Superior Warehousing building.

Trump talked about renegotiating trade deals to put American interests first, and he praised his administration's efforts to slash government regulations across the breadth of the nation's economy, including mining.

"We have cut more regulations than any president in the history of our country," he said, adding that "we have more to cut."

That's just fine with St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson.

"We're sick and tired of bureaucrats telling us what we can do with the lands that we cherish,'' said Nelson.

"I agree with that 100 percent,'' Trump said.

By one count, the Trump administration has eliminated 22 regulations for every new one it implemented.

Trump heralded the nation's low unemployment and predicted the economic boom would continue and that America and Minnesota would keep on "winning."

"We're putting America first. We're respected again as a country," Trump said to rousing applause. "We've been taken advantage of for too many years and it's not happening any more."

He specifically highlighted the strength of iron mining, an industry with a heavy presence in northeastern Minnesota.

"Iron mining is really booming now with what we're doing,'' Trump said. "We're making a big difference."

Kelsey Johnson, executive director of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, credited Trump's aggressive trade and tariff policies with protecting the domestic steel industry that is fed by Minnesota taconite iron ore.

"That has been a real benefit for this area,'' said Johnson, who was on a panel of about a dozen officials and steelworkers sitting with Trump.

While miners like Trump tariffs, including putting them on Chinese steel, the agriculture industry has a different view because China threatens its own tariffs, especially on American soybeans, pork and beef.

Executive Director Perry Aasness of AgriGrowth, a Minnesota organization representing ag interests, warned in a statement that already-struggling farmers could be hurt more.

"While it's clear that China has engaged in a number of unfair trading practices that have been detrimental to some sectors of the U.S economy, unfortunately, it is the agriculture sector -- farmers, agribusinesses and food companies -- bearing the brunt of these current retaliatory efforts," Aasness said in a statement. "In recent weeks, farmers have seen significant reductions in commodity prices as a result of these retaliatory efforts, adding to an already depressed farm economy."

Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich asked Trump to stop a possible withdrawal of federal lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from any kind of mining. The withdrawal of Superior National Forest was being studied on order from the Obama administration.

Later, Trump said his administration was in the final stages of taking the federal land withdrawl off the table entirely.

Many at Trump's rally wore "make mining great again" caps, and he was handed one that he showed off to photographers.

Trump told his economic roundtable that he is fulfilling his campaign promise to "make America great again," but will use a new slogan in 2020: "Keep America great."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.