Donald J. Trump’s path to the White House ran squarely through the industrial Midwest. As everyone now knows, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are the states that delivered him the presidency in the remarkable 2016 elections.
Now comes the big question—what does President-elect Trump’s win mean for the Midwest?
That’s the question that leaders of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC) met to ponder just one week after the election. Meeting in Cleveland, the group of approximately 40 chambers from across the Midwest gathered to prepare an agenda for the new 115th Congress (beginning January 3, 2017) and the new Trump presidency (beginning January 20, 2017).
Historically, the GLMCC has focused on five key areas: 1) modern transportation infrastructure; 2) thoughtful high-skilled immigration policies; 3) efficient U.S.-Canadian borders; 4) abundant and available baseload energy sources; and 5) plentiful, clean Great Lakes water. How those key issues will fare in the new Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress are hard to predict. One writer has described the Trump Administration agenda as a case of “maximum policy uncertainty.”
But there are some clues. First, the new President’s call for a massive transportation infrastructure plan would appear to be a perfect match for the GLMCC’s priorities. That initiative’s success or failure will depend on the tricky task of finding a massive funding source that is palatable to the majority of Congress.
Candidate Trump focused heavily on trade and immigration policy throughout the campaign. It is too early to tell now his high profile calls for a southern “wall” and crackdown on immigrants will square with the Midwest’s need for efficient (but secure) border crossings and wise high-skill immigration policies. Also, businesses throughout the Midwest rely heavily on trade with Canada and all will be watching how the new president-elect approaches the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA), which he has called “the worst trade deal ever.” The Great Lakes is home to “the world’s largest binational trading relationship—$660 billion in 2014—with 400,000 people and $1.8 billion in trade crossing the U.S./Canada border daily, and 40 percent of that trade volume originating eight Great Lakes states.”
Finally, the new president’s message has been called populist, nationalist or even protectionist. Those are broad words with uncertain meanings although they all eventually come together on economic issues. Exit polling has shown they were messages that appealed to blue collar workers in the so-called “Rust Belt” who have seen jobs losses and were looking for change. What that means on specific programs will be determined in the months and years ahead.
The GLMCC and its individual chambers will be working with the new Trump team to make sure it understands the importance of our region to a strong, secure America and to appreciate that a vibrant Midwest economy is key to making American great again.
(Exclusively provided by K&L Gates, Washington, D.C. advocacy firm, for members of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition)