News & Views Header


The Great Disrupter - News & Views brought to you by Howard Direct

The Great Disrupter - Part 2
How the Trump administration can affect North
American trade and Canada’s printing industry


Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct


By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: April 2017 - Updated: May 11, 2018  |  Contact the Author
Part 1 | Part 2

The Trump message to industry is quite clear. Cut out the red tape, impose tariffs on a variety of imported products, all to make America great again. U.S. printers can buy into that because if the plan actually works the result will be more printing being produced in America. The Mexican upheaval is really a US, Japanese and Korean manufacturers issue more than it is a Mexican one. Goods assembled or made in Mexico are made by non-Mexican corporations – with a majority being American.

In the 1980 movie The Formula, a film about a secret synthetic fuel that would render oil obsolete, there is a scene between two oil company executives:

Arthur Clements: [proposing that Titan Oil can raise its gasoline prices]
"The people will accept the 12 cents now because we can blame it on the Arabs."
Adam Steiffel: "Ah, Arthur, you're missing the point - we are the Arabs."

The largest U.S. corporations are global. The movie showcased what we all sort of know. America Inc. is the puppeteer. Mexico (the country) is the one taking a lot of the heat. The first commandment of free enterprise speaks of making products cheaper. Countries like Mexico are essential to maintaining a low-cost environment, just as Vietnam and Bangladesh are in South Asia. Many jobs are disappearing simply because of technology, and America needs a low-cost producer in their own backyard.

The printing industry can benefit from Trump's hacking away at red tape and forcing more factories to open up in the USA. Tariffs alone, if implemented by Congress, could invigorate rustbelt towns all over the United States. But there will be losers, and countries like Canada will have to work hard to keep itself out of Trump’s cross-hairs. If Trump has his way of removing the so-called tax imposed on manufactured goods made and exported from America, this could cause severe indigestion for, among others, Canadian printers. Similar difficulties existed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After all, today Canadians enjoy exemptions on exported items, so the likelihood of Trump agreeing on similar schemes is not a surety. Think cheese and milk, wood products and paper.


Today, NAFTA covers a North American Economy with a combined output of USD 17 trillion. The NAFTA region is home to 444.1 million people, 33.3 million of whom live in Canada, 304.1 million in the United States, and 106.7 million in Mexico.
In 1994, when NAFTA was enacted, many Canadian naysayers were warning of impending doom to the Canadian Auto industry. The previous 1965 AUTOPACT agreement had proven to be a Godsend for Canada and its replacement? Well, who really knew how that would play out? Quite wonderfully actually. But now NAFTA is under attack and if Canada and USA cannot negotiate favorable terms Canada’s print industry could find itself back in the 1960s – shut out of a tariff-free trade with our largest trading partner.

Only a fool believes North American oil reserves serve a single purpose of providing energy and powering our vehicles. Oil is so much more important and used in everything from drugs to plastics. But paper is another story. Especially in coated cut sheet, Canada and America work somewhat differently. This can be seen by visiting any cross-border printing plant.
Southeast Asian and Chinese paper suppliers enjoy a major slice of a Canadian printer’s buy. Not as much in America, where they have always been aggressive in slapping on anti-dumping and countervailing duties. With current zero duties on Canadian printed materials (to the U.S.), Trump could alter any perceived advantages save for our weaker dollar. 

A bull in a china shop, Trump, while upending the way things have been, has the inalienable ability to draw us in like a moth to a lamp. As much as some absolutely despise him as a person and cannot identify with his moral failures, those same folks see the benefits of a non-bureaucrat who shatters all convention and looks to shake up business. I can also agree with a lot of what Trump says. That's the conundrum we find ourselves in. From West Virginia coal miners to printing industry owners. Yes, a morally bankrupt man but . . . . he sure does have some good ideas!

America's small business owners will applaud him if he does make it easier for them to expand and run their businesses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for one, has made it extremely difficult for web printers. The EPA imposes harsh rules for exhausting of airborne effluents, and in some states like California, the paperwork alone kills the majority of a dwindling industry. Trump keeps tweeting about de-regulation. Yippee!

For the U.S. printing industry, they hope Trump will not do anything really stupid to upend the economy. These folks are willing to hold their noses, forgive his sins and pray that Trump stays on message. However, as we know, trade is a two-way street. Earlier duties slapped on aluminum and steel clearly show that Trump had a great sound bite, pumped up the working masses but also made errors in calculating the fallout. In the boardrooms of behemoth American corporations, the leadership may remember that line from the movie: "We are the Arabs" and make Trump a one-term President.

Contact the Author


Head Office:

Quick LInks:

Products and Services:
800 Westgate Road
Oakville, ON L6L 5N2
Tel. (905) 821-0000
Skype: howardgraphic

      Bookmark This Page

  Archived Articles

  Archived News

  Archived Commentaries

  Archived Technology Reports

  Archived Featured Media

  Supply and Service of Printing and
Allied Equipment Since 1967

  Pre-owned and Reconditioned
Printing, Packaging and Bindery

  USPAP-Compliant Certified Appraisals
and Valuations for the Printing and
Allied Industries

  Asset Revitalization and
Refurbishment In Our 98,000 sq ft
State-Of-The-Art Facility

Copyright © 1967-2017 News & Views - Howard Graphic Group of Companies. All Rights Reserved.