Editorial Opinion
January 6, 2017

Trump jawbones Ford as ally in making America great again

by Bob Hoig, Publisher
Midlands Business Journal

President-elect Donald Trump unleased the power of the presidency again this week — and he’s not even in the office until Jan. 20.

Wednesday he enlisted the help of Ford Motor Co., which told of plans to scrap a proposed $1.6 billion factory in Mexico to build small Focus cars.

Ford later acknowledged that optimism over Trump’s “pro-growth” strategies figured into the decision. Bill Ford, leader of the Dearborn, Mich., company, doubtlessly has been eyeing the U.S. stock market.

Stocks as a measure of national optimism started a rocket ride up after Trump’s victory. It stalled only when reaching near the 20,000 benchmark barrier of the Dow Jones Industrial averages. The market continues to nibble below the 20,000 mark.

Trump’s first bit of good news for jobs came from Carrier Corp. of Indiana that it was reversing a plan to move more than 1,000 jobs to Mexico.

It’s reported that Carrier’s owner, United Technologies Corp. probably had a hand in the thinking. With billions of dollars worth of government contracts coming up, United Technologies has obvious reasons for seeking good relations with the Trump Administration.

Being a former governor of Indiana, Vice President-elect Mike Pence also would know some buttons to press.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in a front-page story Wednesday quoted the Ford company as saying that one off-shoot of the Focus decision would be the diversion of $700 million to building electric vehicles in Michigan.

Hours before the Ford announcement came word that Trump’s famous Twitter account had criticized General Motors Co. for importing compact cars from Mexico for sale in the U.S.

The threat had been that Trump will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and slap stiff tariffs estimated at 35 percent on GM vehicles coming across the border. Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer has a long history of seeking punitive tariffs on overseas competitors and emphasizes the point.

“I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies which will benefit all Americans,” said a statement from Lighthizer to the Trump team, quoted in the WSJ.

Trump’s moves show he understands “jawboning” as well as past heroes of the tactic: Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

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