If Trump’s trade war against China does finally disrupt the U.S.-China economic fusion, the main beneficiary will not be American manufacturers. Instead, the winners will be other countries, including one very prominent country that borders the U.S. and that Trump has denounced for its unfair trade deals with the United States under NAFTA. Already, Hasbro and GoPro have shifted production from China to Mexico, along with hundreds of other companies totaling tens of billions of dollars. Other countries that are seeing new investment include Indonesia and Egypt.
Mexico in particular stands to gain because it is easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to relocate manufacturing there than to build new factories elsewhere for the kind of goods now produced in China. Mexico has the infrastructure from years of NAFTA, as well as ease of transport to and from the United States. That isn’t necessarily bad for the United States, but then again, it wasn’t necessarily bad that manufacturing that was no longer economically feasible in the United States went to Japan and Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s, and then to China in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. And it certainly isn’t what the political proponents of tariffs, both Democrat and Republican, promise will happen.