Empty threats: Trump's "America First" message isn't stopping business from moving to Mexico

Trump may bluster about keeping jobs in the U.S., but not many firms seem to be listening

By Matthew Rozsa
Published March 31, 2017 6:00PM (EDT)
 (Getty/Tasos Katopodis)
(Getty/Tasos Katopodis)

At first President Donald Trump's biggest problem, at least when it came to his vows to keep American jobs from being sent to Mexico, is that he overstated both the magnitude of that particular problem and his own achievements in keepings jobs in this country.

Now, though, the problem is that companies are simply not intimidated by his populist rhetoric.

Companies like Illinois Tool Works Inc. in Mazon, Illinois; Triumph Group Inc. in Spokane, Washington; and TE Connectivity Ltd. in Pennsauken, New Jersey, are reducing the size of or outright closing plants in the United States to move to Mexico, according to a Bloomberg report.

Alan Russell, the CEO of a company in El Paso that helps relocations, told Bloomberg that "this isn’t about taking jobs from the U.S. It’s about saving companies." Similarly Ross Baldwin, the CEO of a San Diego company that performs a similar service told Bloomberg that "there's cautious optimism and a hopeful attitude that cooler heads will prevail in Washington."

As Bloomberg also points out, manufacturing jobs in Mexico increased by 3.2 percent in January from where it was in that month in 2016, while they fell by 0.3 percent in the United States within that same period.

This isn't to say that businesses are unconcerned with the potential impact of Trump's policies. In particular, the prospect of Trump trying to renegotiate NAFTA and a plan by House Republicans to impose a 20 percent border adjustment tax could impact the bottom line of retailers like Wal-Mart. At the same time, it seems that many businesses are deciding that the cost-saving advantages of using cheap labor in Mexico may outweigh the negative PR caused by sending jobs out of the United States.

If Trump really wants to be remembered as the president who saved American jobs, he may need to do something that his administration has so far opposed on principle — create regulations on American businesses.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Mexico Offshoring Jobs United States