President Donald Trump’s speech in Milwaukee last Friday reminded us that no matter what flashy issue dominates political headlines at any given moment, we need to continue to focus on how to make our economy stronger.
The president spoke at Derco Aerospace in Milwaukee, a defense contractor that is among the many manufacturers in the midst of the American factory revival that was once thought impossible.
“We’re here today to celebrate the triumphant return of American manufacturing,” President Trump announced, and it wasn’t mere bluster. Manufacturing jobs make up a growing proportion of the 6 million new jobs created under President Trump’s administration, and manufacturing confidence is setting records.
Here in Wisconsin, the foundation built by Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans combined with Trump’s pro-growth policies have driven the unemployment rate down to a historic 2.8% — the lowest level ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. President Trump’s tax cuts have boosted the successes we’ve seen due to Wisconsin Republican reforms.
At Derco, the president shared a simple secret to his success, saying, “We’ve powered our economic turnaround by following two fundamental rules: If it hurts American workers, we don’t do it ... if it helps American workers, we definitely do it.”
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Trade reform is central to that America First approach. For 25 years under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), American companies have been able to do their manufacturing in Mexico, taking advantage of low wages and virtually non-existent labor protections — and then ship those products into the United States without any problems. The passage of NAFTA in 1994 corresponds precisely with the manufacturing exodus we have seen in the United States.
Wisconsin now counts as a pivotal state for the president's re-election chances.
The blame doesn’t rest solely with any single administration or political party. NAFTA was conceived under President George H.W. Bush, signed by President Bill Clinton, and left in place by successive presidents from both parties. But the same president who brought us the recent manufacturing renaissance has delivered — in the form of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — a replacement for NAFTA that will right the wrongs of 1994.
The new agreement seeks to do more than simply maximize GDP, which was the overarching priority of the NAFTA negotiators. Experts believe the USMCA will foster economic growth as well, but the goal is to deliver an equitable economy in which factory workers in Wisconsin benefit as much from North American free trade as financiers on Wall Street.
Many issues will dominate the news coverage. But just because our economy is humming along doesn’t mean we lose focus. We can continue to grow. President Trump’s push for Congress to approve the USMCA is just another example of his commitment to the economic vision he has laid out, and we should join the call to ask Congress to pass the USMCA.