By Michael Hernandez and Ovunc Kutlu
WASHINGTON (AA) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday stressed his “job is not to represent the world” but to further the interests of the United States.
Addressing a joint session of Congress for the first time, Trump stuck largely to formerly stated mantras, stressing in an hour-long speech that “for too long, we've watched our middle class shrink as we've exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.
“We've defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross -- and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate,” said Trump.
It is unclear as to which drugs Trump was referring.
America is currently in the throes of an opioid epidemic that is largely due to an over-reliance on physician-prescribed opioids to treat pain.
Legal drugs that do not illicitly cross national borders, accounted for more than half of the 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
And eight states along with the nation’s capital have legalized recreational marijuana – dealing a major blow to the cross-border trade largely dominated by Mexican drug cartels.
The Trump administration has vowed to crack down on those jurisdictions with legal weed, which could backfire in the war on drugs by playing into the cartels' hands.
During his congressional address, Trump emphasized he would “restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders” by enforcing the U.S.’s immigration laws, and said construction of a “great wall” along the country’s southern border with Mexico would soon begin.
“It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime,” he said.
Switching to international trade, Trump reiterated his insistence on ridding the U.S. of trade deals he believes harm the economy.
He noted the U.S. lost more than one-fourth of its manufacturing jobs since the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, of NAFTA, 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and he said the trade deficit reached almost $800 billion last year.
"When we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes -- but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing," he said.
"I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be fair trade."
Trump touted the U.S. withdrawal from the “job-killing" Trans-Pacific Partnership and said the construction of controversial pipelines in the U.S. would create "tens of thousands of jobs".
He also noted that the stock market gained almost $3 trillion dollars in value since his election on Nov. 8th, and that he would support deregulation to spur economic growth and create more jobs.
Although Trump reiterated the administration would reduce the corporate tax rate and provide tax relief for the middle class, he failed to provide a timeline for the new tax legislation, or details about deregulation.