Trump makes shallow promise to revive US manufacturing in nomination speech

Posted on 22 Jul 2016 by Michael Cruickshank, Tim Brown

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has identified manufacturing and trade as key issues for his election campaign.

Donald Trump claimed that he can bring manufacturing jobs back to America. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Donald Trump claimed that he can bring manufacturing jobs back to America. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he promised to revive US manufacturing and end allegedly ‘disastrous’ trade deals.

As part of his populist campaign strategy, he is attempting to win votes from middle and lower class Americans who have been hurt by the decline in jobs in this sector.

“America has lost nearly-one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by bill and Hillary Clinton,” said Mr Trump.

“I am going to bring our jobs back our jobs to Ohio and Pennsylvania and New York and Michigan and all of America and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.”

Specifically he identified two key trade deals as part of the reason for the decline in US manufacturing: NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and China’s admission into the World Trade Organisation.

While Mr Trump’s statement regarding the scale of manufacturing job losses is more or less correct, there is little consensus on just how much of that is due to the aforementioned trade deals.

Some jobs undoubtedly were lost to foreign countries, especially China. However, the larger portion of these losses were due to productivity growth, efficiency improvements and automation.

Moreover, it is unlikely that Trump’s plan to bring back manufacturing jobs through renegotiated bilateral trade deals and lower taxes can counteract this larger trend towards automation.

It seems that, as eloquently put by John Oliver in the video above, Trump is more reliant on a feeling about the impacts on US manufacturing than actual hard facts.

Trump guilty of exporting manufacturing jobs himself

Despite Trump talking up his business credentials, he has precious little experience in manufacturing, especially heavy industry. Moreover, as has been reported by numerous news outlets, Trump has been offshoring the production of Trump-brand products since 2006 to countries including China, Japan, Honduras and Brazil as well as European countries Norway, Italy and Germany.

In fact, go back a few years and on his now-defunct Trump University website, he once wrote a post titled: ‘Outsourcing Creates Jobs in the Long Run’.

In the post he wrote: “We hear terrible things about outsourcing jobs — how sending work outside of our companies is contributing to the demise of American businesses. But in this instance I have to take the unpopular stance that it is not always a terrible thing.”

As well, Trump attacked Hilary Clinton’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), something he claims will “destroy manufacturing”.

While she once supported the TPP, Clinton has now publically stated that she opposes it. For this reason it would appear that what would have been the world’s largest trade deal is now dead in the water.

Finally, Donald Trump accused China of “outrageous theft of intellectual property”, despite earlier accusations that his wife’s speech at the RNC had likely been plagiarized from a similar speech given by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.