Bt Gerry Barker
January 23, 2017
The new U.S. President Donald Trump, promised his supporters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin that he would bring back the jobs that have left the country.
Of his dark threats to a number of established issues, not the least of which was trade, border tariffs, make America first and great again, ad nauseum.
He made promises he will not be able to keep because he insulted the very people he will need to carry out his agenda, the members of the U.S. Congress. They, for the most parti sat in stoney silence as he threatened to get rid of the politicians that looked after themselves but turned their backs on the people.
“Friday,” he roared, “mark this the first day of returning the power back to the people.”
He went on out to say that America will come first, including renegotiating free trade deals with countries around the world including Canada. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 30 years, has resulted in the world’s largest trading partnership. America is our biggest customer and we are their biggest customer.
So why is Trump threatening NAFTA? It’s because he is placating the voters who elected him in the so-called rustbelt states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. These four states delivered his presidency, sufficient votes in the peculiar and antiquated Electoral College system used to elect the president. Even though his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won more that 2.8 million more popular votes across the nation than Trump.
While it’s interesting that Trump continues to rail against the Mexican border, still promising to build a wall that claims Mexico will pay for.
I can not recall in 18 months of his divisive broadsides of a very personal nature against not only his opponent but to members of his own party and more particularly minority groups and women.
It will be only a matter of time before Canada and more particularly Guelph, could be seriously affected if the Trump administration follows through and erects trade barriers.
In Ontario, there are more that 32,000 workers employed in the automotive sector of the province’s economy. In recent years the number of workers has declined as major automakers restructured due to major changes in technology.
The largest private employer in Guelph is Linamar that operates internationally but has 19 plants in Guelph, turning out transmissions, drive trains and a variety of parts most on which are shipped to U.S. assembly plans.
In 2008, Canada, both Federal and Provincial governments, supported President Obama’s plans to save the U.S/Canada auto industry. Ontario, for its part, invested $10 billion along with Canada and the U.S. This tripartite action resulted in General Motors and Chrysler, entering chapter 11 of the bankruptcy act, and the three governments funded the restructuring of both companies. Ford declined any financial aid.
Today, the NAFTA North American auto industry is healthy and profitable as are the Canadian auto parts manufacturers.
It may come of some surprise that Trump keeps talking about the jobs going to Mexico at the expense of U.S. workers, but doesn’t mention Canada. Ontario has a larger piece of the assembled-car business sold in the U.S. than NAFTA member Mexico, 27 per cent compared to 18 per cent,
I think this portends a threat to our Ontario auto manufacturing. Granted, it’s early in the game but Trump is determined to return jobs to his country by fair means or foul.
Many of those manufacturing jobs in the auto industry plants in the rustbelt are gone forever, not because of the free trade agreement but due to automation and the use of robots replacing people.
If Trump succeeds in placing tariffs on our borders, it will price our automotive industry out of business and add fodder to a full-blown trade war if he scraps NAFTA.
His judgment illustrates his glaring lack of understanding how his country and the role it plays in the global economy. Having never been elected to any level of government or served his country in any way, including military service, impairs his judgment. He was eligible for the draft during the Viet Nam war but received deferments.
So if Trump initiates his plan to install a 35 per cent tariff on all cars assembled outside the United States and landed at its borders, there will be a major trade war that could lead to a depression.
The last time that was tried was 1931 when President Herbert Hoover attempted to stop imports into the U.S. using excessive tariffs. The result was the Great Depression from which America did not recover until World War II.
Here is just one example how a 35 per cent tariff at the border for assembled vehicles could affect our Guelph economy.
The new Chrysler Pacifica SUV is manufactured in Windsor; this is the only plant to make these cars, most of which are shipped, tariff-free, across the border to supply U.S. dealers.
The Trump “America First” agenda would cripple Chrysler, make the Pacifica too expensive to sell in the U.S. and destroy the U.S./Canada Auto Pact that is part of NAFTA.
This isn’t going to happen right away but the threat of renegotiating NAFTA, (to which our Prime Minister has already agreed to) could have a devestating impact on our economy.