President Trump on Thursday said House Republicans' proposal to subject U.S. imports to a tax could create jobs, giving a public boost to a provision that has faced criticism from lawmakers and businesses.
Trump told Reuters that the proposal, known as border adjustment, "could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States," though he didn't explicitly endorse the measure.
"I certainly support a form of tax on the border because everybody else does," he said. "We’re the only country, we’re one of the very few countries, possibly the only country, that has no border tax."
Trump's comments come as the proposal has been facing mounting opposition among GOP lawmakers and businesses, making its future uncertain.
A number of Republican lawmakers, especially in the Senate, have raised concerns or questions about the tax. And retailers and other businesses have argued that the proposal would lead to goods becoming more expensive for consumers.
But Trump told Reuters that a border tax is "not a tax to the consumer, because that’s going to be a tax to companies and it’s going to be a tax to other countries much more so than it is to the consumer."
Trump also said that "there is no tax if we make our product in the United States." Under the House Republicans' proposal, U.S.-made exports wouldn't be subject to the corporate tax, but goods that are made in the U.S. and consumed here would be.
House GOP leaders have been working to defend their proposal, which is a key plank of their tax-reform blueprint and could raise revenue to pay for lowering tax rates. Last week, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) made the case for the proposal in a lunch with senators and gave a lengthy explanation about the benefits of border adjustments during a press conference.
"This is good manufacturing policy,” he said, noting that the proposal would make U.S. tax practices more similar to those of other countries.
A group of CEOs also praised the border-adjustment tax in a letter to congressional leaders this week. Some of the business leaders that signed the letter also met with Trump on Thursday as part of a listening session with manufacturers.
Trump has previously been unclear about where he stands on border adjustability. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month, he called the proposal "too complicated." But then he later suggested that tax reform could be a way to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday told CNBC that the administration was still looking at border adjustments.
"We think there are some very interesting aspects of it. We think there are some concerns about it," he said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer Thursday did not provide an official position on the border-adjustment tax when asked by a reporter. But he noted that the U.S. is one of few countries that currently doesn't have border adjustments, which gives U.S. companies a disincentive to hire and produce products domestically.
"The president is looking at tax policy that encourages manufacturing and job creation in the United States," he said.
The American Made Coalition, a group of businesses that supports the border tax, was upbeat about Trump's comments.
"We’re encouraged that the White House is committed to tax reform that lowers the rates for everyone and levels the playing field for American businesses,” coalition spokesman John Gentzel said in a statement.
But Americans for Affordable Products, a coalition of retailers and trade associations that opposes the border-adjustment tax, stressed the growing concerns about the border-adjustment proposal in Congress.
Trump's comments are "consistent with what he has already said on the topic and it’s impossible to know if it was in reference to any particular legislative policy," said Joshua Baca, a spokesman for the group. "What we do know is that many Members of Congress have serious concerns with the House-proposed border adjustment tax because it is a risky, job-killing new tax on consumers."
-This story was updated at 7:22 p.m.