Neenah, Wisconsin: Trade & Climate Policy

Great write-up in The New York Times today on the effects on unfair trade practices, and how spot on, at minimum from a political perspective, Trump was to zero in on trade. Four paragraphs in, the money quote (my emphasis in bold):

“Take Neenah Foundry, a 145-year-old operation that employs nearly 1,000 workers here. Its employees have watched in frustration as cheap manhole covers and sewer grates flood into the country from India and elsewhere, where competitors are eligible for government subsidies and face fewer environmental regulations.

“‘For a long time, trade hasn’t been fair,’ said Jeff Lamia, who started work at the foundry earning $5.35 an hour, fresh out of high school nearly 40 years ago, and now makes $27 an hour.

“‘They can build stuff for pennies in China with no environmental rules,’ he added. ‘Our foundry has an ungodly amount of emissions controls and that costs big money. Overseas, they throw it out into the air and we have to compete. That’s not a level playing field.'”

This quote serves to validate the concern I discussed the other day: “…the more I dive into the effect China’s state-driven, protectionist trade practices have had on the global trading system since entering the WTO in 2000, the more concerned I am that my uneducated pro-free trade at virtually any cost stance was/is wildly off base.”

A single anecdote does not make a conclusion; but with Wilbur Ross and “Globalist Gary” in agreement with trade hawk Robert Lighthizer that US trade agreements have unnecessarily decimated US jobs, bright signs are beginning to highlight my extreme ignorance.

It would be one thing for China et al to manufacture washers and dryers, for example, of similar quality at a lower cost – perhaps due to a cheaper labor market and/or superior technology; but if the advantage is derived for uneconomic reasons such as government-mandated emissions standards, that is an utter travesty for the US labor market.

If emissions will be emitted either way – by the US or China – why in heaven’s name should we sacrifice an American job for a Chinese job?

* * *

Again, with all due respect to those who lost their jobs in Neenah, a single anecdote does not make a conclusion – but if these types of uneconomic trade practices are as widespread as Wilbur Ross’s and Gary Cohn’s agreement with Robert Lighthizer would indicate, they highlight well the nauseating site of former President Obama and Angela Merkel in a hand-in-hand global elitist kumbaya on stage at the Paris Accords. Uneconomic trading practices linked to slowing the rise of the oceans are pure, unadulterated global redistributionism. It is nauseating, and precisely why Trump flipped – and will likely retain – so many Obama voters.

“Mr. Trump’s attacks on free trade and promises to bring back good-paying jobs from overseas resonated deeply here — even with lifelong Democrats like Mr. Lamia. Those issues, along with a growing disdain for politicians in general and Hillary Clinton in particular, prompted Mr. Lamia to choose Mr. Trump after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.”

Agree or disagree with Trump’s policies, the objective observer must admit is he at minimum attempting to implement every single thing on which he ran: ripping up TPP, renegotiating NAFTA, and approving the DAPL are precisely what these former Obama voters were looking for in Trump. And my guess is that there are many “Blue Wall” write-in voters that will back him in 2020.

 

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