President Donald Trump used his speech at the National Association of Realtors convention on Friday to announce the U.S. would be lifting steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico.
"We've just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico and we'll be selling our product into those countries without the imposition of tariffs or major tariffs," Trump said.
Trump spent two minutes near the end of his one-hour speech talking about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the guarantors of about $5 trillion of U.S. mortgages. Trump referenced a memorandum he issued in March ordering the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to come up with a plan to end government control of the companies.
“More than a decade after the financial crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still in conservatorship,” Trump said at the NAR convention. “Fannie and Freddie still dominate the market with no real competition from the private sector and the taxpayers are still on the hook if another crisis should happen, and this is a pretty urgent problem.”
The president then directed a comment to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who was in the audience.
“We have many geniuses looking at it and we’ll figure something out, but Fannie and Freddie can do a lot better than they’re doing,” Trump said. “And that’s why I recently directed the Department of Treasury and HUD to develop a framework for a modern housing finance system. You working on that Ben? I know you have some incredible talent from Wall Street coming in. We actually called on very smart people.”
While the Trump Administration hasn’t yet announced any new hires from Wall Street, last week the Treasury Department said Craig Phillips, a top staffer overseeing the creation of the housing-finance reform plan the president called for, will depart after it’s revealed. His Wall Street resume includes stints at BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse.
In his NAR speech, Trump also discussed the 25% tariffs he imposed on $200 billion of Chinese products a week ago. Usually, the president says that China will be paying the tariffs, even though tariffs are collected by U.S. Customs and Border agents from American importers as goods enter the country. The National Association of Home Builders has called it a $2.5 billion tax on housing. This time, Trump admitted Americans will be paying.
“So many people say our people pay - they pay a little bit but it’s worth it,” Trump said. “It’s hundreds of billions of dollars and out of that, we’re going to give a portion to our farmers. They’re going to be doing really well. Our farmers are going to be very happy very shortly. You’re talking maybe $15 billion to our farmers.”
Trump also hit some of his favorite themes: He slammed Democratic candidates running for president; he ridiculed California’s attempts to build a bullet train; and he recalled a conversation he said he had last year with California Gov. Gavin Newsom about forest management when visiting the scene of the Camp Fire, the most destructive blaze in the state’s history.
“We were talking about forests, and I said, 'Clean up your forest, you won’t have forest fires.' He blames it on global warming, and I said, 'No, try cleaning up the floors of the forests. You won’t have forest fires.' And I got killed for that. It’s called forest management. I got killed for that. And then about three weeks later, they announced I was right.”
It’s not clear what announcement the president was talking about.
The president said he fondly recalled his decades in the real estate industry and said he plans to return to it when he’s out of office. Trump said he’s taking “a little sabbatical - eight years,” a number that would assume he would be re-elected in 2020. In response, the audience of Realtors cheered enthusiastically.
“Even as president, I ride down those streets and I say wow, is that place nice, look at that site,” Trump said. “Then I say, 'I have to deal with China. Forget about that stuff.'”
On Twitter, one Realtor who attended the speech said people were passing out red hats with “MAGA” logos before the president’s speech began -- a reference to Trump's campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” NAR said it wasn't the association. "MAGA hats will not be handed out at the door," NAR said via its Twitter account.