Autoworkers weigh in on Trump’s trade policies ahead of midterm vote

Global Business

In Macomb County, Michigan on the outskirts of Detroit, Trump supporters in 2016 helped him carry the state of Michigan, which is normally Democrat. They think they can help Republicans again.

CGTN’s Nathan King reports.

After Brian Pannebecker finished his shift we met up with him outside the Ford axle plant where he has worked for 21 years. He said he is as proud of being a member of the United Auto Workers union, as he is proud of the U.S. President.

“Union Workers love what Donald Trump is doing. I don’t care whether it’s the auto workers in the UAW, or the mine workers, or the steel workers. Blue collar workers love what Donald Trump is doing, because he is sticking up for the American workers.”

Pannebecker makes no secret of his love for Trump and backs the president’s get-tough approach on trade and tariffs.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had leadership who would go toe-to-toe with our trading partners, making sure we are getting fair deals to try and keep our jobs here…so we can export our products that we build to other countries .”

But I asked him about steel prices. They are going up. Aluminum prices are going up. If consumers need to pay more for a car, they might buy fewer cars. That could also lead to job losses, I pointed out. Pannebecker said some pain was worth it.

“Maybe in the short term they are going to have to pay more. This is the way Donald Trump negotiates. He takes a hard bargaining position. He gets the other people to come to the table to make some concessions and eventually they hammer out a deal in the end. He’s done it as a businessman. Now he’s doing it as a politician. We love him.”

But what if the trade war continues with Beijing? “ How long do you give him, I asked? A grinning Pannebecker responded: “Erm…six months to a year, I think before the end of his first term. Donald Trump is really going to be able to run for reelection with the results of the negotiating he has done with our trading partners. And, I think it’s going to be a positive…and help him get re-elected in 2020.”

This diehard Trump supporter is on board with the U.S. President—at least, for now. But you don’t have to drive far in Michigan to find those who think Trump’s policies are hurting the U.S. auto industry.

Kristin Dziczek is a Vice President at the Center for Automotive Research. Just back from China, she thinks Trump’s tariffs are harming the U.S. auto industry.

“Most of the actions taken raise the price of vehicles. So, the steel and aluminum tariffs, we see raising the price of a vehicle 400-500 dollars…The new NAFTA, the USMCA, does raise the cost of production as well.”

And Dziczek said putting tariffs on Chinese products won’t create more jobs in the U.S. She said the parts will just come from somewhere else.

“It’s kind of a game of whack-a-mole.” She said laughing. “You make it more expensive to get it from China. So, that means we will get it from Thailand, Taiwan and India and other places. We haven’t actually solved the problem of cheap imported parts into the U.S. market, or incentivized anyone to move that work here.”

Autoworkers like Brian still support Trump with unbridled enthusiasm, believing his policies are driving the U.S. auto industry forward.
Others, however, see the White House shifting the U.S. economy into reverse.