Trump has a powerful weapon to wield against corporate America’s free trade mythology:
Some U.S. companies are reviewing potential mergers while others are rethinking job cuts or looking at their manufacturing operations in China for fear of being cast as “anti-American” by President-elect Donald Trump, according to Wall Street bankers, company executives and crisis management consultants.
Having seen some of America’s largest companies, including General Motors Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and United Technologies Corp, bluntly and publicly rebuked by Trump on Twitter, many others are worried they may be his next target – especially if they have significant overseas manufacturing, have had U.S. job cuts or price increases for consumers.
“Any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence is WRONG!” Trump, who assumes office on Jan. 20, tweeted in December.
Trump campaigned on an “America First” anti-globalization platform that promised the return of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs to economically depressed areas.
That nationalist rhetoric and Trump’s willingness to use his Twitter account as a cudgel has so rattled some companies that they are putting on hold mergers and acquisitions that may involve significant job cuts or moving production or tax domicile abroad, out of fear that such deals could be seen as “unpatriotic”, several top Wall Street bankers said.
This is excellent news. It also shows how perilously thin the corporate case for free trade is.