President-elect Donald J. Trump
Nov. 15, 2016
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States may prove challenging for the food and beverage industry as well as all of agriculture in the United States. Mr. Trump campaigned on a hardline immigration position, and the promise to renegotiate international trade pacts that have benefited the food and beverage industry, as well as many other industries. Speculation about how a Trump administration may attempt to fulfill his campaign promises has brought a significant level of uncertainty to the marketplace.
The level of uncertainty was apparent the evening of Nov. 8 as Mr. Trump moved closer to election and markets around the world fell precipitously. On Nov. 9, the markets rose and fell early but eventually rallied as traders waited for more clarity regarding the president-elect’s economic plans.
There are several reasons for the market reaction, most notably the small chance Mr. Trump was given to win the White House. The most generous political forecasters gave him a 30% chance of winning election. Yet a wave of rural voters in key battleground states came out in force and propelled him to victory.
Another reason for the uncertainty is while Mr. Trump’s campaign featured considerable high rhetoric, his proposals often were short on details. On the issue of immigration, for example, the president-elect is calling for a wall to be built across the southern border of the United States to discourage the illegal immigration of individuals from Mexico as well as Central and South America. Mr. Trump also rejects creating a path to citizenship for individuals who are currently residing and working in the United States illegally. He has inferred many of those residing in the U.S. illegally may face deportation though more recently shifted toward the current policy, emphasizing the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.
The issue of globalization also was contested throughout the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries and throughout the presidential campaign. In late June, when a majority of voters in the United Kingdom voted to discontinue the country’s participation as a member of the European Union, globalization emerged as an even more prominent issue.
It is undeniable that globalization has significantly benefited the food and agriculture industries as well as consumers in the United States. The relatively unencumbered flow of goods into and out of the United States allows producers and manufacturers access to new markets abroad and to import ingredients not readily available domestically.
Early in his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump’s focus was on China and reforming the U.S.-China trade relationship. His goal, he says, is not protectionism but accountability by declaring China a currency manipulator, forcing China to abide by intellectual property laws and by putting an end to what he calls the country’s illegal export subsidies. Beginning in June and continuing through the balance of his campaign, Mr. Trump was outspoken in his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and said he plans to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of an effort to renegotiate the pact with Canada and Mexico.
What impact a Trump administration may have on the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is also uncertain. Policy and regulatory issues specific to the food and beverage industry were not part of the heated discourse characterizing the campaign. While disappointing, this is not surprising and, for those searching for insights, it may be best to look to the makeup of the Senate and House of Representatives, both of which remained in Republican control.
In his victory speech, Mr. Trump struck a conciliatory note. After a hard-fought campaign, he said, “Now it’s time for Americans to bind the wounds of division. I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
While a call for domestic unity is welcome, in the current age of globalization, where the relatively free flow of goods and people are necessary, international cooperation also is a must. It is in this arena where the most uncertainty of a Trump presidency lies.