After the president vowed to slap trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, outraged foreign countries announced they might do the same to Wisconsin motorcycles and cheese. Dairy industry insiders were caught off guard, as they figured the election of a guy with skin the shade of Kraft singles would bode well for orange exports.
Folks at Harley-Davidson were surprised, too. Suddenly our state’s favorite products have become pawns in an international economic chess match, which is a problem because we prefer euchre.
There’s also talk of tariffs on other iconic American exports such as orange juice, blue jeans and bourbon. This is a cruel irony, because if President Trump disrupts the global economy, the world will need all the affordable bourbon it can get.
Last week he proposed charging 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. This upset North American Free Trade Agreement talks, not to mention the stomachs of those who produce America’s most popular exports. Foreign countries said if the U.S. places tariffs on metal, they’ll do the same to the many products we sell overseas, including Wisconsin’s beloved cheese and bikes. Uff da.
These are troubling times across the country. The same day Trump introduced his tariff plan, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he has nuclear-capable missiles that can’t be intercepted. The international economy is about to be destabilized, we have two foreign enemies testing weapons to use against us, and we can hardly go a week without a mass shooting. Pass the bourbon.
There’s even more bad news at home for the Wisconsin companies that make beer and the more-than-a-few cheeseheads who drink it: If aluminum becomes more expensive, so will every can of beer you buy. Not to mention every can of Coke and Pepsi and store-brand Mr. Fizz Diet Moon Mist. But if you’re drinking that, the economy is the least of your problems.
It’s no secret Trump considers NAFTA a four-letter word. Reworking that international trade agreement was, along with building a wall at the Mexican border and singlehandedly resurrecting Alec Baldwin’s acting career, a hallmark of his election campaign. But the Wisconsinites who narrowly elected him over Hillary Clinton probably didn’t predict Trump would endanger their holy economic trinity of cheese, motorcycles and beer. What’s next, sending tax collectors to church basements during Friday night bingo games?
Trump’s tariffs are intended to combat overproduction in China. But Chinese products are already subject to U.S. import restrictions, so the effects are likely to hurt more elsewhere. Such as Canada, which accounts for 41 percent of U.S. steel imports. They give us steel, Dan Aykroyd and insulin, and we hand them a tax bill. We’re such hosers.
Our neighbors, Canada and Mexico — the president believes good fences make good neighbors — hope they’ll be exempted from the proposed tariffs. Our allies in Europe hope Trump will drop the idea entirely. Putin would like that, because then the world would pay more attention to his big, powerful missiles. Someone page Dr. Freud.
America is hardly exempt from presidential abnormal psychology. Those who profit from Wisconsin’s key exports can only hope our Narcissus in Chief tables his tariff talk, lest Harley-Davidson’s assembly lines get stuck in neutral. Trump should keep in mind that that the economy could make or break his re-election campaign, and that in this swing state, cheese trade is a wedge issue.
The world can only hope Trump comes to realize international trade, like beer and bourbon, must be allowed to flow freely.