Clinton or Trump on Global Trade?

If we don’t ratify TPP, China will surely step in and take over the lead trading position in the Asia-Pacific region.

In case you are on election overload like I am, you may have missed or ignored that both major candidates are on an anti-trade band wagon. We’re hearing that international trade is bad for American workers, and China should be beaten back into submission. These are scary words for those of us who earn a living in global supply chains.

As logisticians, sourcing, procurement, warehousing and manufacturing experts, what we know for sure, is that trade is good for the economy – ours and other countries’.  I remember my International business professor saying years ago, that countries that trade with each other are likely to be at peace with each other. Exports from the US provide jobs for Americans and inexpensive imports improve our life styles.  So why so much hate talk about global trade?

The Republican Party was always noted for being pro-trade, but with Trump as the GOP leader, it seems the GOP is becoming the anti-trade party.

According to Trump, the Chinese have taken away all of our jobs and have fabricated stories about global warming.  According to Clinton, TPP is now bad for America. But these opinions raise some questions, and frankly, raise my blood pressure.  They are mostly false statements.

Let’s start with Trump. While he rails against the Chinese and says he’ll slap a 45% import tariff on Chinese goods, he continues to build his own wealth by selling Trump products that are imported from China.  Even Ivanka Trump uses a Chinese apparel contract manufacturer, G-III, to produce her line of clothing and other Chinese contract manufacturers for her line of shoes.

A Newsweek investigation found that Trump bought steel and aluminum for two of his most recent building projects from Chinese manufacturers, instead of American manufacturers.  In the second Presidential debate, Trump said he will fight against low-cost steel imports from China. So is Trump signaling that he will bring all this manufacturing and procurement back to America and American manufacturers?  I think not.

Free trade was a fundamental principle of the Republican Party in the past, but it was bashed at this year’s GOP convention by Kimberlin Brown, a television star and now an avocado-farmer. At the Democratic convention, Bernie Sanders railed aggressively against the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a job-killing threat.

Both Candidates have strong words for China. But bashing our trading partners, even if they don’t have the same kind of government, human rights records, or IP protection we enjoy in America, isn’t going to help any party and won’t solve any problems. It is certainly not good for those of us dealing with day-to-day global operations and are required to travel internationally.  When the relationship with a foreign country isn’t good, travelers are at risk. Hate speech makes us vulnerable when we visit factories, distribution centers and suppliers overseas.

Clinton, who helped to design TPP, is now against the current agreement.  But TPP is most likely good for American exports, reducing barriers to trading with Asian nations, although it is unpopular in political speeches. The trading block TPP creates without China (China is not part of the agreement) gives smaller countries more clout in trade-block cooperation with the US.

If we don’t ratify TPP, China will surely step in and take over the lead trading position in the Asia-Pacific region.  Clinton is also tough-talking about China.  But her history as Secretary of State suggests that she is Asia-savvy and understands the potential opportunities and threats better than almost anyone else in the US government. She has a thorough understanding of trade economics and the inter-connectedness of the global economy. She has stood up to China before on human rights and environmental issues, and we should have every reason to believe she will again without damaging our trading relationships.

Global supply chain professionals have a better understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships of global trade.  We experience the effects of global trade every day.  Based on experience and reasonableness of opinions and proposed policy, Clinton seems to be the far better candidate.

I’m with her.