PRESS EDITORIAL: Trump’s sledge-hammer trade tactics already having an effect—they’re hurting Wisconsin

By 
JOHN TORINUS

 With friends like Donald Trump, the Wisconsin economy needs no enemies.

The retaliation by foreign governments to his sledge-hammer tactics in raising tariffs on incoming products is already having a boomerang blowback on Wisconsin manufacturers.

It is raising the costs of raw materials and therefore prices of Regal Ware’s cookware and appliances, making it harder to compete with its exports—65% of its revenue. Regal Ware employs 200. Will its employment drop if its sales drop?

Ditto for other steel and aluminum users like Briggs & Stratton, Ariens and Mercury Marine. Wisconsin is the second most manufacturing intensive state, so this state, which helped Trump win the presidency with its 10 electoral votes, will be disproportionately affected by his growing trade war.

New counter-tariffs by Mexico on U.S. food products will slam the state’s dairy industry. Mexico buys nearly one-quarter of our dairy output. Sartori Cheese says the blowback will be “pretty devastating.” Canada has also slated tariffs on dairy products.

Ditto with pork exports for companies like Johnsonville Sausage. Mexican tariffs will go to 20% from 10% on July 5.

Ditto with soy beans, a big crop here.

Miller-Coors prices will rise because the costs of aluminum cans will rise. Higher prices generally spell lower unit sales.

The puzzle in all this trade turmoil is that trade issues with our North American allies are not that big a deal.

We are not that far from trade neutral with Canada.

By far, the biggest trade deficits are with China and Germany.

The solution with those two countries is not to restrict their low-priced imports, which help the American consumer.

It is to persuade and push those two countries to buy more American goods.

China has already made a preliminary $50 billion offer in that direction.

Isn’t that the better way to reduce the trade deficit?

In another dimension, the Trump administration is obsessively attacking immigration in all forms, even legal immigration, to the detriment of Wisconsin.

The problem: With a very low unemployment rate, Wisconsin employers can’t find enough workers.

The worker shortage is especially acute for dairy farmers, who rely heavily on immigrant labor. Some dairy farms will have to shut down.

The president is good at picking fights. Twitter insults against foreign leaders are a dubious bargaining tactic.     

He is good at ripping up foreign policy agreements that took years to negotiate with allies.

These are allies like Canada and France that have been with us in every war.

Their boys died next to ours.         

If the Trump approach is a lot of rhetoric, insults and wild slap shots, world trade will suffer, and Wisconsin employers and employees will suffer more than most.

Wisconsin generally has a trade surplus—more exports than imports.

Torinus, of West Bend, writes a blog on business, health care and politics found at johntorinus.com.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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