America’s political and media establishments keep warning of the disastrous consequences of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to conduct international economic policy by in effect telling U.S. competitor countries and offshoring multinational companies to “Jump.” And rather than responding indignantly by promising to resist or retaliate and touch off a series of international trade wars and other conflicts, businesses in these countries keep responding by in effect asking “How high?”
As a result, they keep adding to the already copious body of evidence indicating that the United States boasts more than enough leverage (thanks to the matchless power of its market) to achieve better terms of trade unilaterally. Here are two of the latest examples.
Yesterday, the reliable Taiwanese technology publication Digitimes reported that “US-based high-tech enterprises are expected to reduce their reliance on data centers abroad and add ones in the US.” In addition, the Digitimes piece quoted a Taiwanese tech magnate speculating – reasonably – that tech companies (like his) that have already built significant manufacturing capacity in the United States will have advantages over more foreign-centric competitors – who will “have to evaluate the feasibility of shifting factories from Mexico or other areas to the US….”
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Reuters quoted the COO of the Indian tech services giant Infosys as stating that because they expect Mr. Trump to curb significantly the visa programs that enable American tech companies to replace U.S. workers with low-paid imported Indian counterparts, companies such as his will “speed up acquisitions in the United States and recruit more heavily from college campuses there.”
Specifically, according to this Indian executive, “We have to accelerate hiring of locals if they are available, and start recruiting freshers from universities [in the United States].”
Previously, it should be noted, both Canada and Mexico announced in the wake of the Trump victory that they would indeed be willing to renegotiate or “discuss” NAFTA.
China may still apparently believe it can bluff Mr. Trump. But good luck to Beijing and its still export-heavy economic growth strategy if it thinks it can find foreign markets to substitute for America’s, with which it ran a $367 billion goods trade surplus last year. Good luck also to China’s efforts to maintain political stability if, as likely, declaring a trade war on such a crucial foreign customer raises unemployment.
America’s economic competitors are fully aware that its enormous trade surpluses have fueled much of their own, and global, growth for decades. The biggest change on this front represented by Trump’s election is that now a U.S. president clearly understands – and has been publicly touting – this indisputable reality as well. In otherwise, for the first time in decades, America is led by someone well versed in “the art of the deal.”