Opinion: Trump trade policies a boost to Michigan autoworkers and farmers

Peter Navarro

Michigan has been one of biggest victims of two of the worst trade deals in American history — the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization. Michigan lost 228,000 manufacturing jobs after China joined the WTO — 27% of the total. And Michigan’s auto sector saw its employment cut in half, from 80,000 to 40,000 jobs.

President Donald Trump has stood up to Communist China, and he's also kept his promise to renegotiate NAFTA.

NAFTA’s replacement — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — might rightfully be viewed as the Full Employment Act for communities like Detroit, Flat Rock, Flint, Sterling Heights, and Warren. USMCA dramatically increases the North American content required for autos and auto parts, and much of this production will be made in Michigan because tough labor and environmental provisions help level the playing field between the U.S. and Mexico.

U.S. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro

Trump also fixed a deeply flawed South Korean deal signed in 2011 during the Obama-Biden administration. This renegotiated deal extends a 25% tariff on Korean light trucks and pickups to 2041. If that tariff had been lifted, the result would devastated one of the most profitable and robust segments of Michigan’s auto production. Instead, GM is investing $150 million in its Flint assembly plant to boost truck output by another 40,000 units annually.

As an example of how Trump has earned the trust of America’ blue collar workers, the White House was able to work with union negotiators to quickly settle a strike between General Motors and the United Auto Workers that had dragged on for weeks.

Trump also levied tariffs on $1.8 billion worth of foreign-made washing machines to combat the unfair trade practices of South Korean manufacturers. In response, Whirlpool, which is headquartered in Benton Harbor and employs about 4,000 in the southwestern Michigan region, has invested millions of additional dollars in its domestic manufacturing facilities.

The prospect of the president’s across-the-board tariffs on all imported automobiles has also provided a strong incentive to auto manufacturers to onshore their production or otherwise face losing access to the American market. For example, following pressure from President-Elect Trump in 2017, Ford scrapped a planned $1.6 billion Mexican facility and instead invested $700 million in Flat Rock, expanding the employment there by 700 new jobs.

Trump’s trade policies are also helping Michigan’s 80,000 farmers.  Under USMCA, Michigan’s more than 1,200 dairy farmers in communities like Dowling, Livonia, and Glendora will be able to sell more to Canadian markets than they ever have before. 

Crops like apples, asparagus, cherries and cucumbers, grown in communities like Carleton and Palmyra, and potatoes grown in communities like Mecosta, Posen, and Kalkaska are vital to local economies across the state, from Northern Michigan in Antrim and Manistee counties to Oceana County in the West. Under USMCA, farmers in these communities will also gain easier and more consistent market access into Canada at fair, competitive pricing agreements.

Trump also came to the staunch defense of Michigan’s cherry growers in communities like Traverse City — the Cherry Capital of the World. Turkey was dumping tart cherries into the U.S. economy at rates four times cheaper than cost, with subsidies as high as 205%. The Department of Commerce strongly countered with antidumping tariffs as high as 541%.

As the Michigan Farm Bureau recently said: “Farmers speak directly, they keep their word, they deliver, they are patriots. Like our country’s farmers, President Trump has been clear about the agenda he would pursue, and he has kept his word...Promises Made, Promises Kept.”

Peter Navarro is the assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy. This article is based on the new White House report, "President Trump’s Jobs Plan for Michigan," available at whitehouse.gov.