FedEx Corp. founder Fred Smith said “Trade has made America great, and expanding trade has been a bipartisan pursuit for over 80 years. The failure to continue to do so would be a severe mistake with enormous consequences for America and the world,” said Smith. “We urge the Trump Administration to put its stamp on a revised TPP by addressing any concerns it sees, and making any additional improvements to promote trade, rather than restrict it.” Smith added, “contrary to public perception, the U.S. enjoys a surplus with those trading partners in manufacturing and has global surpluses in services and agriculture.”
The comments by FedEx’s chairman, president and CEO came at the Dec 9 annual National Council on Competitiveness Forum, in Washington, D.C., an annual C-suite invitation-only event covering issues related to maintaining America’s competitiveness globally.
There are two important takeaways from the speech. First, it shows that the corporate establishment is going to take a hardline on issues like NAFTA. Smith even made a vigorous defense of the much-maligned TPP agreement. And second, Republican members of the House voted on 190 to 50 to give the President fast-track negotiating authority for that trade deal, which illustrates just how popular free trade deals remain in Trump’s party. With Democrats bereft of power in Washington, and Trump’s administration increasingly staffed by establishment figures, the President-elect could have a lonely fight on his hands if he attempts to dismantle the free-trade status quo.
Though Smith conceded that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be updated, he said a withdrawal “would have massive economic repercussions.There are myriad reasons why that would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy.”
Americans should not expect that a withdrawal from NAFTA would mean a return of those jobs to the U.S., Smith said.
“In fact, it’s possible that many U.S. manufacturers would either find suppliers in other countries or use Mexican production to export to other markets under Mexico’s 40-plus free trade agreements,” he said.
Trade contributes more than 40 million jobs, Smith said, of which tens of thousands are at FedEx.
Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx on Dec 9 made a strongly worded critique of Trump and his trade policy. He said getting rid of the NAFTA—a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that Trump has called “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country”—would be “catastrophic for the U.S. economy.” And he argued that Trump should be very careful in managing the nation’s relationship with China.