DETROIT (April 11, 2016) — Last week, Ford Motor Co. announced it will open an assembly plant for small cars in Mexico by 2018, creating 2,800 jobs.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called the decision “an absolute disgrace,” reviving his earlier criticism of Ford for choosing a non-U.S. plant site.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford is just the latest manufacturer to add production in Mexico because of lower wages and favorable trade laws. But Mr. Trump has singled out Ford in his campaign, even threatening to slap a 35 percent tariff on Ford vehicles built there and imported into the U.S.
Is the topic of why U.S. companies invest globally fair game? Absolutely.
In-depth exploration of U.S. industrial policy is long overdue. But the issue deserves a frank and open discussion involving all the U.S. stakeholders, including manufacturers, labor leaders, legislators and government policy makers.
The issue is far too complex and important to be reduced to tweets and sound-bite campaign snippets tailored for public consumption.
What has played out in public has created more heat than light. Mr. Trump asserts that Ford is building up Mexico operations at the expense of American workers. Yet Mark Fields, the auto maker's CEO, responds by saying Ford has invested $10 billion and added 25,000 jobs in the U.S. since 2011.
Left unsaid is how Mexico has actively pursued automotive manufacturing capacity by refining its industrial policy, investing heavily in infrastructure, education, training and tax abatements to attract auto makers and suppliers — and, by negotiating dozens of bilateral trade agreements, how Mexico turned itself into an auto export hub.
Compare that to U.S. legislative paralysis in an increasingly polarized Congress.
Auto companies carefully weigh multiple factors, including the pluses and minuses of individual countries, to manage global production. U.S. workers and taxpayers deserve a government that is equally attentive and effective.
This editorial appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.