Trump To Visit Michigan Auto Workers After Signing USMCA

January 29, 2020


Malachi Barrett

President Donald Trump will visit Michigan workers to celebrate Wednesday’s signing of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement replacing what he called “the worst trade deal ever made.”

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement replaces a 1994 deal widely criticized for allowing companies to move their manufacturing facilities across the southern U.S. border to take advantage of cheaper labor. The White House says the new deal will create a more balanced, reciprocal trade environment that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and Michiganders in particular.

“After NAFTA’s adoption more than 25 years ago, the United States lost nearly one-fourth of all of its manufacturing jobs, including more than one in five vehicle manufacturing jobs,” Trump said. “Entire communities were devastated from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Michigan to Maine.”

The deal is expected to create 176,000 new jobs and add $68.2 billion to the economy, according to the White House. Trump touted its benefits for Michigan’s car production and agriculture industries and will visit a Warren auto parts supplier to celebrate the key policy victory on Thursday.

“Two decades of politicians ran for office vowing to replace the NAFTA — and this was a catastrophe: the NAFTA catastrophe,” Trump said Wednesday. “Yet once elected, they never even tried. They never even gave it a shot. They sold out. But I’m not like those other politicians, I guess, in many ways. I keep my promises, and I’m fighting for the American worker.”

The president campaigned heavily on scrapping NAFTA during the 2016 election. Trump called NAFTA and the now-dead Trans-Pacific Partnership a disaster for Michigan and other manufacturing-heavy Midwest states he would go on to win.

Trump’s Thursday visit will bring him to Macomb County, one of the key swing areas that helped him win Michigan in 2016. Voters in Macomb County had supported former Democratic President Barack Obama in the two previous elections, but the area flipped for Trump by a large margin.

The largest employers in the county are Michigan’s Big Three automakers — General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co.

Legislation implementing the USMCA received bipartisan support in Congress, and Michigan’s representatives on both sides of the aisle applauded the deal in statements released Wednesday. However, businesses were kept waiting for most of 2019 while negotiations between Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration unfolded.

Trump had threatened to leave NAFTA before the new deal was in place, creating some uncertainty in the business community. Detroit Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandy Baruah said businesses delayed plans for expansion and chilled future investments after the president announced he would scrap NAFTA.

Baruah said Michigan businesses are breathing a sigh of relief now that the long-awaited replacement deal is finalized.

“Regardless of who you are in the business community, or what you may think of Donald Trump, the business community is somewhere between relieved and excited that USMC has finally turned the corner,” Baruah said. “It really provides the certainty that businesses, especially the auto community, need to plan and invest going forward.”

Canada and Mexico purchase more exports from Michigan than the rest of the world combined, The two countries bought nearly $35 billion in Michigan goods in 2018, according to the Michigan Manufacturing Association.

USMCA is expected to create up to 76,000 new auto jobs, spur $34 billion in new investment in the auto industry, and add $23 billion in auto parts purchases annually, according to the White House.

Automobiles must have 75% of their components manufactured in North America, increasing the 62.5% standard under NAFTA.

American agricultural exports are expected to increase by $2.2 billion, and Canada has agreed to expand market access for American dairy, egg, and poultry producers.

Baruah said the new deal is essentially a modernized version of the previous agreement, a “NAFTA 2.0” as some have called it. It also includes new protections for intellectual property and technical improvements to address e-commerce issues.

A group of House Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Trump isn’t the sole architect of the trade agreement. Democratic lawmakers said the deal wouldn’t have passed without tweaks made during a lengthy negotiation process last year.

Dingell said replacing NAFTA is long overdue. Manufacturing facilities in her district west of Detroit still sit empty after good-paying jobs were moved across the border to Mexico, she said.

Dingell said the USMCA has “significant improvements” over the previous trade agreement and begins to level the playing field with workers in Mexico by raising wages.

The USMCA requires 40 to 45 percent of automobile parts to be built by workers who earn at least $16 an hour and includes provisions to hold Mexico accountable for labor standards. Mexico also committed to expanding access to unions for its workers.

However, Dingell said the deal “won’t undo the deep damage that’s been done to American workers since NAFTA was passed.”

“It’s not just going to uproot factories from overseas and bring them back home,” Dingell said Wednesday. “We have to keep investing in workers.”

Baruah said the cost of labor isn’t the only reason businesses move their facilities. One of the reasons many companies decide to manufacture vehicles in Mexico is due to the country’s free trade agreements with other countries, he said.

“You don’t see many Silverados driving around the streets of Tokyo or London, those vehicles are still made in the United States because they’re domestically consumed,” Baruah said. “When you look at cars that are sold globally, a great example would have been the Chevy Cruze, which they no longer sell the United States but they still sell globally. They make a lot of those Mexico just because they’re easy to export to other parts of the world.”

Trump also celebrated recent investments announced by automakers in Michigan during the USMCA signing Wednesday.

General Motors announced plans to invest $2.2 billion transform its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, which had been set to idle this year, into a new state-of-the-art electric vehicle factory. Ford Motor Co. plans to invest $1.5 billion in its Wayne and Dearborn assembly plants.

‘I expect to see the president and Vice President Pence and all their surrogates in the state a lot,” Baruah said. “Michigan is going to be a battleground. I think we’re going to be a popular stop over the next several months by all the candidates, so get ready.”

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John Kasich set to deliver keynote address at Mackinac conference

March 21, 2019

The Detroit News

Beth LeBlanc 

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican critic of President Donald Trump, is set to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference and talk about the “current national political climate,” the Detroit Regional Chamber said Thursday.

The chamber-sponsored conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island has been promoting the theme of “restoring civility in American politics” during the past few years.

Trump, who is scheduled to hold a campaign rally next Thursday in Grand Rapids, is known for his brashness and attacks on political opponents.

Kasich is scheduled to speak May 30 at the annual Mackinac conference, which is traditionally attended by business professionals, Michigan and national lawmakers, as well as entrepreneurs during the last week of May.

View the full article here

Learn What You Can Do to Help Save the Soo Locks

One of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2018 Legislative Priorities is focused on increasing dedicated infrastructure funding. Arguably one of the most important pieces of infrastructure in Michigan, the Soo Locks in the Upper Peninsula, are in dire need of repair.

The locks are one of the world’s busiest waterway crossings, handling 75 million tons of commerce annually and saving the Great Lakes region $3.5 billion a year on transportation costs. If they were to fall into disrepair, there would be an immediate negative impact on Michigan’s economic stability.

Within weeks, a shutdown of the Soo Locks would halt 100 percent of North American automotive production, and within 30 days it would cause a $160 million economic impact.

In April, the Locks received national attention when President Trump declared his support for fixing the Soo Locks. This month, at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder announced a budget agreement to provide $50 million in state funding toward construction of a new lock.

The Chamber is calling on Southeast Michigan business leaders to get involved in this critical conversation. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Send an email to Gov. Snyder, your legislative leaders, and the White House.
  2. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #fixthesoolocks.
  3. Post any of the key facts on social media to raise statewide awareness of the Soo Locks’ importance.

Did you know?

  • More than 7,000 freighters cross through the Soo Locks each year, connecting the Great Lakes with the St. Lawrence Seaway. Just one freighter carries the cargo of 2,000 semi-trucks.
  • $500.4 billion of iron ore passes through the Soo Locks annually.
  • The Soo Locks rank first in economic significance (out of 196 locks).
  • A six-month shutdown of the Soo Locks would result in 11 million jobs lost nationwide.
  • The gross dometic product would decrease by $1.3 trillion as a result of the Soo Locks closing.

To learn more, visit

Great Lakes Metro Chambers Push for Action on Infrastructure, Immigration and Trade

The Detroit Regional Chamber and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition met with members of Congress and their staff during a two-day fly-in to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss several recently proposed policies that will affect business in the Great Lakes region.

During the visit, the Coalition met with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN 6), and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), among others. This visit primarily centered around advancing three of the Coalition’s top policy priorities: the development of a robust, nationwide infrastructure plan; increasing high-skilled immigration; and supporting the preservation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Coalition members spent much of their time discussing President Trump’s recently proposed infrastructure, immigration and trade policies. The infrastructure policy allocates $1.5 trillion in investment that was proposed in February. The Coalition supports developing comprehensive infrastructure legislation and increased federal funding for key projects, including an upgrade to the Soo Locks.

Regarding immigration, the Coalition continues to support high-skilled immigration. Data shows that immigrants bring the talent, labor, and spending power needed to help grow the Great Lakes’ economy. According to a New American Economy report, in the Great Lakes region alone, immigrants account for half of the population growth over the last 15 years and drove almost two-thirds of the region’s working-age population growth in the same amount of time.

Finally, the Coalition met with representatives to discuss the preservation of NAFTA. Modernization is necessary to improve trade between the United States and its allies, but pulling the United States from NAFTA would be catastrophic for businesses across the Great Lakes region that rely on restrictive-free trade with Canada and Mexico.

The Coalition will continue to engage the administration on improving infrastructure, immigration and trade regulations to help grow the region’s economy.

For more information on the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, visit

Clayton & McKervey summarizes President Trump’s tax reform plan

Clayton & McKervey, an international certified public accounting and business advisory firm located in metro Detroit, offered a summary of President Trump’s tax reform plan, announced today and titled A Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. The summary was prepared by Suzanne Tuson, CPA, MST, a shareholder in the firm’s international tax services department.

In reviewing the proposed reforms for individuals and families, Tuson summarized the following key reforms:

• Create a larger “zero” tax bracket by increasing standard deductions to $24,000 married filing jointly and $12,000 for single taxpayers
• Consolidate current seven tax brackets to three brackets of 12%, 25% and 35%, but leave congress the option of creating an additional higher bracket for higher income taxpayers
• Repeal personal exemptions for dependents and increases the Child Tax Credit
• Increase income levels at which the Child Tax Credit begins phase out
• Make the first $1,000 of the Child Tax Credit refundable
• Provide a $500 non-refundable credit for non-child dependents
• Repeal Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
• Eliminate most itemized deductions, but retain tax incentives for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions
• Retain tax benefits that encourage work, higher education and retirement security
• Repeal death tax and generation skipping transfer tax

In reviewing proposed reforms for business, Tuson summarized the following key reforms:
• 25% Maximum tax rate applied to business income of small and family owned businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations
• 20% Corporate tax rate
• Eliminate Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax
• Immediate expensing of the cost of new investments in depreciable assets other than structures made after September 27, 2017 for at least five years
• Limit deduction for net interest expense incurred by C corporations
• Eliminate Section 199 Domestic Production Deduction
• Retain Research and Development and Low-Income Housing Credits
• Modernize rules related to special tax regimes for specific industries
• 100% exemption for dividends from foreign subsidiaries (in which the U.S. parent owns at least 10%)
• Treat accumulated foreign earnings as repatriated under the transition to the new system
• Tax at a reduced rate and global basis the foreign profits of US multinational corporations

“Today’s news perhaps raises more questions than provides answers, but we expect further details and implications of the reforms will come to light over the next several days and weeks,” Tuson said.

About Clayton & McKervey
Clayton & McKervey is a full-service CPA firm helping middle-market entrepreneurial companies compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world. To learn more, visit


Digital Marketing Experts: It’s Time to Rethink How You Connect with Your Audience

By Daniel Lai

For many companies struggling to find their place in today’s digitally-driven world, lack of a clear marketing plan and failure to adapt to new platforms means getting left behind and losing business.

That was a key message marketing experts laid out to more than 200 attendees during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s first Digital Marketing Boot Camp last week at the College for Creative Studies. The event was sponsored by MLive and Motown Digital.

Sola Obayan, principal consultant at BTO Solutions and founder of the Social Media Association of Michigan, said at the heart of any good digital marketing strategy is understanding what a target audience wants and crafting that message to draw in potential customers to a company’s website.

“Oftentimes we get caught up in the ‘what’ or ‘how’ message when really we should start with the ‘why,’” she said, drawing on examples from companies like Hallmark.

The greeting card company reaps millions of dollars every year by playing off of customers’ emotional response.

“Think about how you want your audience to feel when they engage with your brand,” Obayan said. “By building that bond with your audience, you can drive action.”

Don’t Build Your House on Sand

Before a company jumps on the latest social media platforms, it must first take the time to invest in a user-friendly website. Two of the biggest “no-no’s” Obayan often sees from small and medium-sized businesses are confusing websites and stretching resources and messages across too many social media platforms, a phenomenon she called “shiny object syndrome.”

“Don’t build your house on sand,” Obayan said.

Michael Taylor II, creative partner for SS Digital Media, agreed that a company’s website is key.

“You have to do a good job of providing the customer with the content promised,” he said. “If you send someone to your website via social media, they shouldn’t have to spend time searching.”

Taylor was part of a panel of experts led by Eric Hultgren, director of marketing at MLive Media Group, that also included Lynn Haliburton, senior account executive at Marx Layne & Co., and Dan Fuoco, interactive marketing manager for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Hultgren said businesses must invest in websites that are mobile-friendly.

“If your brand is not here, you do not exist to the customer,” he told attendees, holding up his smartphone.

Fuoco said platforms like Facebook and Twitter are also good to promote a company’s news coverage, or “earned media” in order to increase brand awareness. However, he stressed that the platform a company chooses to use should correlate to its message goals and target audience.

“If you aren’t posting minute-by-minute updates than perhaps Twitter is not the space for you to play in,” he said.

Drawing on examples from her client, McDonald’s, and its use of social media to promote the limited release of its signature Big Mac sauce in certain stores across the country, Haliburton said social media can be a good tool to “shock and delight” loyal customers.

Putting Humans Back in the Social Media Driver’s Seat

The most important advice of the day came from Marcus Burrell and Eric Thomas, senior partners at Saga MKTG.

Thomas said too many businesses forget to talk like humans when engaging with customers online, a phenomenon that can have dire consequences for brand positioning.

“People often forget the ‘social’ part of social media. Don’t be afraid to engage and start a story with your followers. What do you want people to know about you or your brand?” Thomas said. “The most important thing we can do as digital marketers is speak to and with people, not as a robot.”

Understanding your audience and pushing out messages that connect with them is critical, Thomas said, pointing to the success of President Trump’s Twitter growth during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“He speaks in a way that makes people want to listen. He has mastered his digital messages for his demographic,” he said.

Finally, Thomas said when communicating with customers on any digital platform, “don’t tell stories you wouldn’t want to hear.”

To read more digital marketing tips, check out the Digital Marketing Boot Camp blog page.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber.