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Trump’s Manufacturing Tactics Could Backfire

Author: Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow
February 4, 2017
Journal Sentinel


Donald Trump came to Washington determined to shake up America’s economic relations with the world, to pursue what he has unapologetically called an “America first” strategy “to benefit American workers and American families.”

At the heart of that strategy is restoring manufacturing to its former glory. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro says the administration wants to see “a German-style” economy, in which 20% of the workforce is in manufacturing, more than twice the percentage currently in the United States.

No state should benefit more from a manufacturing-focused president than Wisconsin, where more than 16% of workers are in manufacturing, second only to Indiana. Those jobs are generally good ones, paying about one-third more than the average in the region. That’s one reason Trump had planned to visit the state and its iconic Harley-Davidson plant last week before fears of protests led the company to call it off.

The president’s goal is laudable, but his tactics could have precisely the opposite impact his supporters wanted. Instead of tweaking trade rules to promote job-creating investment in the United States, the Trump administration is threatening to blow up those rules, introducing massive uncertainty that could weaken the U.S. economy and slow job growth.

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