Just Over 100 Days In, How is Trump Doing on Trade?

Scott Paul

Scott Paul Director, AAM

President Trump rode into office 100 days ago promising to shake things up for America’s working class.

In his inaugural address, Trump echoed the promises of his campaign, pledging that job creation would be a pillar of his presidency. He said he’d put America first and reshape our trade policy. He repeated his “Buy American, Hire American” pledge. He vowed to rebuild our roads, bridges, airports, tunnels and railways.

Trump certainly has done a lot of talking (and tweeting) over the past few months. But what’s actually changed in the past 100 days? Has Trump managed to reshape the landscape — or has he been all talk?

Let’s look at the evidence.

One of Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promises was to stop the outsourcing of jobs. He regularly called out big companies when they sent jobs overseas, and just before he took office, he famously helped negotiate a deal to prevent hundreds of jobs from being outsourced at the Carrier facility in Indianapolis (although hundreds of other Carrier jobs are still headed to Mexico, as are jobs at nearby Rexnord).

In these first 100 days, several large corporations have made a big fuss about creating or retaining American jobs. But the evidence that they did this because of Trump is murky. While a handful of the announcements are new, many companies had these plans on the books before Trump’s election and saw a public relations opportunity to make nice with the new administration.

Now, some companies are indeed looking at expanding U.S. operations and/or sourcing more of their materials from the United States because of potential Trump policy changes. Others are reconsidering plans to send jobs abroad. But many are still in a wait-and-see mode, as there’s still no evidence Washington is functional again.

Trump’s economic development efforts via Twitter have also slowed. While Trump said he’d be willing to call every company looking at shipping jobs overseas, that follow-through hasn’t materialized.

Smart, targeted policy will ultimately be the deciding factor. That policy work starts with trade, and it is here where the president has begun to make some real progress.

Trump quickly made good on his campaign promise to pull out of the dead-on-arrival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. He’s also launched various initiatives that could bear some fruit, including executive orders to strengthen Buy America preferences and reduce the trade deficit. But most of that work is now in the planning stages; the real test will come this summer when more concrete action plans are unveiled.

On Trump’s order, the Commerce Department is investigating whether steel and aluminum imports are threatening America’s national security. If Commerce determines these imports are indeed a threat, and Trump opts to act accordingly, it would be a major win in the effort to combat unfair trade, particularly with China.

Other promises are so far incomplete. His policy on using American iron and steel in energy pipelines is still being formulated by the Commerce Department, and the White House didn’t require the Keystone XL pipeline to be made in America.

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) still awaits the confirmation of Robert Lighthizer as the U.S. Trade Representative. A leaked (and repudiated) draft of NAFTA renegotiation priorities was unimpressive, and Trump just this week threatened to pull out of NAFTA all together (although he quickly backtracked).

Meanwhile, the rhetoric of senior administration officials runs hold and cold. This week it’s hot, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross slamming Canada on dairy and softwood lumber and helping lead the effort on aluminum.

Then there’s Trump’s broken promise to name China a currency manipulator. This was a missed opportunity to deter China from bad behavior in the future, and Trump disregarded a pledge he repeatedly made to factory workers on the campaign trail; he explicitly gave this issue away in exchange for Chinese diplomatic cooperation on North Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump still has big picture initiatives to tackle, from major infrastructure investment to tax reform. Given the gridlock that continues in Washington these days — and indeed, the staunchly divided political landscape throughout the country — accomplishing these tasks will not be easy. Where the administration spends its political capital will matter: border walls or deficient bridges; health care or a tax overhaul.

All in all, it’s unlikely that most manufacturing workers are feeling the impact of Trump’s policy work, at least so far. But it’s still early in his presidency, and there are a few signs that the tide is indeed shifting.

We can look to South Carolina to see how.

London-based Liberty House Group announced last week it has agreed to purchase the shuttered Georgetown Steelworks plant, which closed in 2015 and left hundreds of steelworkers out of work.

Liberty House executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said in a statement that the plant “gives us a strong platform from which to launch our strategy in the USA” and added it is the “first significant step in Liberty’s plan to make major investments in the U.S. steel industry.” The company is even in talks with the United Steelworkers union to recruit a workforce to reopen the plant.

This flies against the conventional wisdom that Trump “can’t bring steel jobs back.” A British-based steel company looking to launch major operations on U.S. soil? Seems like a sign that things may be on the right track.

***

Reposted from Medium.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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