Trump is tearing up the free-trade deals. One way to look at it is that he is moving away from globalization which many blame for wreaking havoc on our economy and way of life, but maybe you can’t really run from the global economy but you can get a better deal, and I think that is what he has said he would do all along.
Can he do it? We will see. There is going to be pressure on his own party members in congress by many large corporations not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, American workers be damned.
He definitely sounded the protectionist theme in his inauguration address. And he has promised to slap higher taxes or tariffs onto goods coming into the country and punish companies that send work overseas and then import products back into the U.S.
I have mixed emotions. I mean there is no mixed emotion about what I think of Trump the man — he is a vile character. But he is president and he has the power to do things — the ability, we’ll see.
But I have thought and wrote ever since I began this blog more than eight years ago that there is no reason we cannot stress Made in America and rebuild our great productive power. I have always lamented what I think was the wrong-headed thinking of moving to the so-called “service economy”. But at the same time I recognized that we would likely have to move carefully and avoid the protectionism that history indicates resulted in the Great Depression.
And while I do not pretend to understand the complexities of international trade I have been part of it on a down-to-earth basis for the past two decades working as an over-the-road truck driver. A large percentage of the hauling I have done involves international trade, much of it between the U.S. and Mexico. As an example, I have hauled particle board from Oregon to the Mexican border to be forwarded on into Mexico, and then hauled produce from Mexico back to Oregon. The highway lanes go both ways folks.
It seems to me that years ago I hauled apples to the port of Seattle to be shipped to Australia but that I also at times picked up apples coming in from Australia. I know I have hauled grapes out of California’s Central Valley that were home-grown, but ironically I have hauled grapes out of the same coolers that originated in the South American nation of Chile. The seasons are opposite of course on either side of the equator.
One heck of a lot of jobs are tied up in international trade all up and down the line involving transportation (drivers, warehouse workers, buyers and brokers), and retail marketing, and various other sectors. And in the case of produce, the consumer gets an abundant supply all year around at arguably reasonable prices.
But would you say U.S. agriculture is for free trade? Depends. If you grow rice or walnuts I would think so. A major portion of those crops are marketed overseas. But lemon growers have successfully got Trump to put the brakes shipments of lemons from Argentina into the U.S. (just happened to read that, and I think it may be just a temporary hold).
However, in my way of thinking it is a shame that in a nation such as ours with such abundant land and natural resources we cannot produce what we need to supply ourselves and keep ourselves employed while we are at it. We would wind up paying a lot more for some things and I imagine some products would disappear from the shelves.
I don’t think we want to close our borders to all imports, even if that were possible. But it seems we have gone too far the other way. Employment statistics from the government are somewhere between skewed and misleading to useless. Look around. There are far too many people unemployed or under employed and far too many who have to work for too low of a wage to sustain an acceptable style of living. And too many young people face bleak job prospects, and we are producing generations in some levels of society who do not even know what work is.
Trump seems to be taking the hardball approach, tearing up trade agreements to force a better deal, but some observers are concerned that pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (congress never ratified it but Trump has officially pulled us out) will cede the leadership in trade over to China.
But I do like the idea of Made in America.
Our best hope would to be to compete at the upper level in quality like Germany does, not at the lower level like China and many of the third-world countries do (and I in no way mean that all Chinese imports or ones from other nations are always inferior).
This nation has depended upon world trade from its beginnings and will continue to do so, but of course each nation, including ours, has to look out for its own interests, and that means putting its people first.