Donald Trump has long been an opponent of free trade agreements — in the 1980s he took out full page newspaper ads in New York criticizing Ronald Reagan on the subject — so it’s no surprise scuttling TPP was on his priority list and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is also in his sights.
Lots of American manufacturers and their workers have seen big retailers like Walmart replace US-made products with container-shiploads from China. And, naturally, if wages south of the border are only 20% of what they are in the US, it makes sense to move manufacturing there, which plenty of manufacturers have. In the US north-east to mid-west you see just as many abandoned factories as you do in Eastern Europe.
However, technology is just as big if not a bigger factor in job losses than industrial relocation to the Third World.
An anti-free trade stance is actually traditional Democrat ideology and contrary to Republican ideology. Trade protection was the policy pursued by governments of both parties in NZ from the late 1930s to the Rogernomics era of the 1980s when several industries, including car assembly, vanished.
The problem is that while trade protection may create jobs, it also makes the products more expensive and thus less affordable for workers.
The lesson learned the hard way by a lot of entrepreneurs following Rogernomics is that if you can’t compete on price, then you have to compete on quality; that’s now going to be even more important than before.
The US is NZ’s fourth largest trading partner after Australia, China and the EU collectively (including the UK), and although it only represents about 12% of total trade, that’s not insignificant.
A lesson from history after Britain joined the EU in 1973 is that if traditional markets suddenly close themselves to what you have to sell, then you have to go door knocking to develop new ones.
Regarding other aspects of the change in the US Presidency, it’s probable that dramas in the US centre of power are going to heat up with Trump, dominate the news even more than before — and distract attention from local issues, which really affect people’s lives more directly. We’ll do our bit to try to counter that.