Snyder: Trump wrong to label Michigan a ‘disaster’

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s claim that Michigan’s manufacturing industry is a disaster is “not accurate.”

When Trump railed against American trade policy a week ago in suburban Lansing, the New York billionaire said “the Michigan manufacturing sector is a disaster” and predicted Mexico would steal Michigan’s claim as the car capital of the world “very, very soon.”

Snyder rebuffed Trump’s remarks Friday, marking a rare occasion when the two-term Republican governor has struck back at his own party’s presidential nominee despite remaining officially neutral in the White House race.

“No, factually that’s not accurate,” Snyder said of Trump’s claim. “Michigan’s No. 1 in the creation of manufacturing jobs over the last few years, and we’ve got a thriving manufacturing sector, and I’m proud of it.”

Snyder addressed questions about Trump’s portrayal of the state’s manufacturing sector after speaking at a Michigan State Police trooper academy graduation ceremony in Lansing.

Trump was correct when he said that Michigan has lost automotive and other manufacturing jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect 23 years ago. Economic experts have questioned whether the trade pact is directly responsible for much or all of the job losses.

But Trump painted with a broad brush, failing to acknowledge the Great Recession, the federal bailout of General Motors Co. and the former Chrysler Group LLC or the subsequent jobs rebound in the auto industry.

Michigan had roughly 795,600 manufacturing jobs in July 1993, the year NAFTA was signed. That number increased to 892,100 in 2000, but fell to 438,500 by 2009 during the depths of a national recession that hit Michigan particularly hard.

As of July, Michigan had about 604,200 manufacturing jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The auto sector followed a similar trend, according to bureau statistics.

Michigan added about 42,400 vehicle and parts manufacturing jobs between 1993 and 2000. It then lost 208,600 jobs by 2009 and has since added back 63,000.

The state had about 263,000 auto jobs in 1993, compared with 159,800 last month, federal statistics show.

“I think you’re seeing manufacturing re-consolidate, come back to Michigan,” Snyder said Friday. “We build many of the leading products in the world right here in this state.”

Trump painted a different picture of the future of manufacturing in Michigan, warning that the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade pacts could send more jobs to Mexico or overseas.

“Many people in this audience who have jobs, you’re going to find out very soon your company is leaving for Mexico or some other place and you’re not going to have a job anymore,” Trump said. “And if Trump gets in, those days are over.”

Snyder emphasized he wasn’t “commenting on the presidential campaign” in addressing Trump’s campaign trail claims.

“I’m answering a factual question,” Snyder said. “Michigan’s a key manufacturing hub — not just in this country but in the world — and we should be proud of it.”

Snyder has repeatedly declined to endorse Trump’s bid to deny Democrat Hillary Clinton the White House.

The governor was asked Friday whether he would encourage Michigan Republicans to unify behind Trump when he speaks Saturday at the state GOP convention in Grand Rapids.

“As I said, I’m not really getting involved in the presidential race,” Snyder said. “My focus is the state House, in particular. And I would like to see the majority maintained there because of all of the great progress in Michigan over the last few years. Let’s keep it up and go forward even faster.”

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Detroit News Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.