Trump’s tough talk is good news for Unifor
Ottawa should “stick its nose” in the auto business to protect jobs, says union leader
It probably bodes well for Canadian Auto Workers that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump is leaning on Ford and General Motors to keep auto production at home, says Unifor national president Jerry Dias.
“Trump, as crazy as he is, is showing governments can play a role” in helping to strengthen the auto sector to save or even create jobs, said Dias, whose union represents 23,000 Canadian employees of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.
He said Ottawa should also “stick its nose” in the auto business after Ford Motor Co. aborted plans this week to build a $1.6-billion (U.S.) small-car factory in Mexico that Trump had criticized, with the automaker announcing instead it would invest further in Michigan.
The surprise move Tuesday was announced just hours after Trump hammered General Motors Co. on Twitter for building its Chevy Cruze hatchback in Mexico and threatening a “big border tax” on the company for importing those vehicles into the U.S.
“I’m thrilled about Ford’s investment in Michigan instead of Mexico and creating 700 jobs,” said Dias, noting Trump’s persistent interventionist campaign with U.S. corporations is clearly making an impact.
Despite the fact that cars and trucks manufactured in Canada are also exported to the U.S., Dias says Trump has “bigger fish to fry” than to bring the hammer down on Canadian imports at this point.
“He’s throwing grenades everywhere right now, and it’s working for him. But his ire is not at Canada, it’s at Mexico,” he said.
He also said he couldn’t be happier with the president-elect’s threats of hefty taxes on carmakers who build vehicles south of the Rio Grande on the cheap and then sell them back to U.S. consumers.
And he’s all for Trump’s plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he says killed thousands of both American and Canadian auto sector jobs since it was passed in 1994.
“Canada had a $12 billion trade surplus in manufacturing before NAFTA, and now we have a $120 billion trade deficit. There’s no question it plays a role,” Dias noted.
Analysts say the auto industry has the most at stake with Trump’s vow to renegotiate NAFTA, which has allowed carmakers and suppliers to move production to Mexico in recent years without facing tariffs.
Richmond Hill-based auto industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers said protectionism simply doesn’t work and that Trump’s bullying of U.S. corporations will eventually backfire for America.
“It comes down to two words: Not good,” said the president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
“We’re already in serious trouble in the auto sector on the manufacturing side. Tariffs sound good on paper, but they increase prices for consumers,” which prevents them from buying, he said.
The auto industry has been a special target for Trump, conjuring visions of a thriving, 1950s-era Detroit where shift work created jobs that paid for mortgages, college educations and an annual vacation, reports Bloomberg News. His feud with the auto industry emerged during the campaign, and he appeared eight times in Michigan. Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Meanwhile Dias said he’s encouraged by the new Liberal government in Ottawa after years of the non-protectionist bent of the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper.