by Nate LaMar
Dear Vice President Pence,
As you were our Congressman for twelve years, then our Governor for four, we know and trust you. You are a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order, which I treasure and respect.
As Congressman, your voting record was consistently in favor of free, though fair, trade. Over the years, you and I spent considerable time discussing Brazilian protectionism’s impact on my employer, not only in your DC office one-on-one but also together with your staff in Indiana. In 2008, the Indiana District Export Council put together a day-long program in Muncie for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) wanting to export their products and invited you to be our keynote speaker. You presented a US Department of Commerce exporting award to Jim Davis of Paws, Inc., the creator of Garfield. In 2009, you spoke so eloquently before the New Castle – Henry County Chamber of Commerce about the products exported by Henry County companies. The list goes on and on!
As Governor, you oversaw the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s (IEDC) increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Indiana and began restoring IEDC’s promotion of Indiana products overseas. Therefore, in addition to having been a free-trade Congressman, you were also a free-trade Governor.
As Indiana is the most manufacturing-dependent state, and most export-dependent state per capita, the trade war is already affecting us. You have visited my employer, Draper Inc. From September 2017 through April 2018, the prices at which my employer buys steel rose by 24%, while aluminum rose by 31%. Speculation caused this even before tariffs took effect! On June 1, tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico took effect, thus raising our costs even further. Understandably, we have had no choice but to pass these costs along to our customers by increasing our prices, thus making our products less competitive. This is compounded by the fact that the exchange rate has really hurt US exporters over the past few years. These are Indiana-made products representing Indiana jobs.
Yes, NAFTA could be improved. But last year’s mere speculation about tariffs has already hurt US agriculture, as Mexico shifted most of its purchases of corn from the US to Brazil in 2017. China is already announcing tariffs against US manufactured and agricultural products. That is all the more reasons why US membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be restored. After all, TPP also serves as a counter to China, both economically and strategically. In addition to affecting jobs, tariffs are already increasing prices for US consumers.
We know that as Vice President, you must walk a tightrope of loyalty. We know that your boss, President Trump, has promised to bring back jobs to America. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that the vast majority of these jobs were displaced by technological advances, rather than by actual foreign jobs. Very few such jobs can ever be brought back. Clearly, tariffs do not create jobs; updated skills do.
Having been our free-trade Congressman and our free-trade Governor, please be your own man, return to your moorings, and be our free, though fair, trade Vice President. Our country’s manufacturing and agriculture sectors are depending on you to right the ship of state for our exports.
Nate LaMar, an international manager, also serves as President of Henry County Council.