Manufacturing Comes Up on the First Night of the Republican National Convention

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Aug 25 2020 |
Kimberly Gilfoyle was among the speakers during the first night of the Republican National Convention who brought up manufacturing. | YouTube

As with the DNC, there weren’t many surprises when it came to factory issues.

Are you ready for Round Two?

The Republican National Convention (RNC) kicked off on Monday night. Much like the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that was held last week, the start of the four-day political event looked different than was originally planned in light of COVID-19, as speakers gave their remarks to a mostly empty room at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., instead of a patriotic capacity crowd at the Spectrum Center in North Carolina.

There’s no shortage of commentary out there, and given that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is a nonpartisan institution, we are going to stay out of most of the nitty-gritty. But as we did with the DNC, we did tune in to listen for mentions about manufacturing.

And there were mentions! That probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given that President Trump ran on bringing back manufacturing jobs in 2016. It would have been more striking had it not come up, in fact.

In a video that played early on, Republicans highlighted the United States Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) as a “promise kept.” Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was one of Trump’s key campaign promises in 2016, and to his credit, he pulled that one off.

There also was a lot of talk about Trump getting tough on China, a claim that is on shakier ground. While Trump deserves credit for bringing China to the table on trade, his eventual “Phase 1” trade deal is completely inadequate. It doesn’t do anything to take on some of the most critical issues with China – things like China’s state-owned enterprises, industrial subsidies, overcapacity, predatory investments, and enforcement mechanisms. As it is, the deal now appears to be on shaky ground.

Nevertheless, China kept coming up throughout the night, and Republicans pushed a consistent message that Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden will be weak on China and on trade in general.

Former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., accused Democrats of wanting to “selfishly send your jobs to China while they get rich.” Speaking of Trump Jr., he too criticized Biden on trade, specifically citing the former senator’s support of NAFTA and the now-canceled Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was negotiated by the Obama administration.

Speakers like Guilfoyle and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also praised Trump for bringing back manufacturing jobs. But the reality is more nuanced. While manufacturing did indeed see major gains during the first year Trump was in office, job growth was stagnant in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic. And like most of the economy, manufacturing has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and is still down 740,000 jobs since February.

We’ll follow the RNC throughout the week.