By Carol E. Lee

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. will impose a "very major" border tax on companies that move overseas as he sharpens his focus on recasting America's international trade relations.

Mr. Trump, in a meeting with business leaders at the White House, also said he would cut taxes for the middle class and businesses and reduce government regulations by at least 75%.

Regulations, he said, have "gotten out of control," and while he described himself as a friend of the environment he said "some of that stuff makes it impossible to get anything done."

"There will be no country that's going to be faster, better, more fair," Mr. Trump said.

He promised incentivesfor businesses that produce and hire in the U.S. but warned the leaders, "if you go to another country...we are going to be imposing a very major border tax."

"We don't have free trade because we're the only one that makes it easy to come into the country," Mr. Trump said.

Among the CEOs in attendance were the leaders of Ford Motor Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., United Technologies Corp., Under Armour Inc., and Whirlpool Corp., according to the companies, as well as Michael Dell and Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump frequently criticized Carrier Corp., a division of United Technologies, for its plans to close a factory in Indianapolis and ship 1,400 jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. The move was part of a broader plan to close another factory and ship a total of 2,100 jobs to Mexico.

After the election, Vice President Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, led negotiations that resultedin a deal to scale back the company's outsourcing plans. In exchange for $7 million in tax incentives over 10 years, United Technologies agreed to keep 800 jobs in Indianapolis and committed to retain an additional 300 positions that had never been slated to leave. The company still plans to close the other Indiana factory and send some 1,300 jobs to Mexico.

Messrs. Trump and Pence announced the deal in a visit to the Indianapolis plant with United Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes, who has said the company was encouraged by Mr. Trump's posture toward big business but also remains committed to free trade.

The president also is scheduled to meet Monday with labor union leaders and workers. The White House described the meetings as listening sessions. He is also scheduled to meet with congressional leaders.

The sessions come ahead of his planned meetings with the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.K.

Renegotiating the NorthAmerican Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada was one of Mr. Trump's campaign promises. He is also eyeing a new trade deal with the U.K. as the country follows through with its decision to exit from the European Union.

Mr. Trump has described his "border tax" in the past as a selective 35% tax on companies that outsource production to other countries and then import goods back to the U.S. That is different from the "border adjustment" that is a key feature of the House Republicans' tax plan. Mr. Trump has criticized that idea, which would tax all imports and exempt exports from U.S. business taxation.

Write to Carol E. Lee at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 23, 2017 10:40 ET (15:40 GMT)

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