By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will visit a Boeing Co plant in St. Louis on Wednesday to tout the impact of the tax overhaul bill signed into law in December, a White House official said on Sunday.
A Boeing official confirmed the visit, but declined to elaborate. The company builds F15 and F18 fighter jets in St. Louis and employs about 14,000 people there. In October 2016, it opened a 424,000-square-foot facility in the city that builds composite parts for the 777X commercial jetliner.
Trump will also attend a fundraiser in St. Louis for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.
The visit will come days after Trump signed a proclamation imposing steel and aluminum tariff later this month from imports outside North America.
Boeing said in January it planned to start hiring more people because of the reduction in the U.S. corporate tax rate resulting from the tax law. "More of an employment plateau in the near-term,” Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on a conference call with analysts.
Boeing has shed 20 percent of its workforce, or about 34,000 jobs, since employment peaked in 2012, in a bid to reduce costs and improve profits, Reuters reported in January.
Boeing said in December after the tax overhaul was passed that it would set aside an additional $100 million for corporate giving, $100 million for workforce development and $100 million for "workplace of the future" facilities and infrastructure enhancements for Boeing employees.
Muilenburg declined to discuss the tariffs when asked by Reuters on Thursday just before Trump’s announcement.
He reiterated his long-standing general support for open trade. "Our position is we want free and open trade, good solid global trade is good for our business and we are going to be strong proponents of that," he said.
Reuters reported last week the tariffs would have a minimal impact on materials costs for Boeing. But the company, the biggest U.S. exporter, could be hit if there was retaliation by countries such as China, one of Boeing’s largest customers.
Boeing makes its planes exclusively in the United States, but nearly 70 percent of the 763 jetliners delivered last year went to customers outside the country, including 22 percent to China.
Muilenburg downplayed concerns of a backlash from China, which has ordered thousands of jets. Boeing plans to open an aircraft completion plant in China.
"You see some tough rhetoric, but when I look below the surface, and having talked with both President Trump and President Xi (Jinping), I think there is a true desire to have a productive trade relationship between the two countries,” he said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)