Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. A uniquely American opportunity to gather with family, share favorite recipes, and reflect upon all the blessings in your life is a blessing in itself. But this year, I suspect many dealers will experience indigestion around the Thanksgiving table NOT due entirely to green bean casserole.
Dealers, like a lot of small business owners, are feeling anxious about all the political and economic uncertainty swirling around the country. Ever since Congress embarked upon its fast-paced tax reform efforts, and the president began railing against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), dealers and other small business owners have been experiencing heartburn over what the future could hold.
Objectively, tax cuts are a very, very good thing. The United States tax code is long overdue for sensible reform that benefits American workers and businesses, and I am hopeful that 2017 is the year we finally see it happen. That said, never in this country’s history has a tax overhaul been attempted at such break neck speed. Dealers are getting whiplash trying to figure out what’s in the bill, what’s out, and how it will all affect our bottom line.
Even as taxes fully occupy most of Washington, D.C., AIADA is also keeping an eye on trade. In his presidential campaign, and now as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump has spoken out forcefully against what he views as trade imbalances between the U.S. and the rest of the world. His favorite target has been NAFTA, and the agreement is now being renegotiated at his request. Unfortunately negotiations aren’t going smoothly, prompting dealers to wonder: What happens to the American auto industry – one of NAFTA’s greatest success stories – if America pulls out of the agreement?
We know that without NAFTA jobs will be lost, the cost of cars and trucks will rise, and that international nameplate brands will have less reason to invest in American manufacturing facilities. The White House’s affinity for protectionism is a real and present danger not just to our highly globalized industry, but to the American economy as a whole. At risk are countless industries, including auto retailers who today employ an all-time high of 1,134,200 workers.
Last year at this time, the 20 percent border adjustment tax took us by surprise, but we were able to defeat it with your support. This year we have new challenges that we can only beat back with your help. AIADA is already hard at work, reminding and informing the administration and its trade negotiators that NAFTA is working for the American automobile dealer. We have formed an active public affairs coalition in D.C. to protect NAFTA and raise awareness of its positive effects, just as we are working on Capitol Hill to protect your interests during the tax debates.
Hopefully, AIADA can put your mind at ease this Thanksgiving, so you can focus on the important things – like pie.
Paul Ritchie is the current chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA). This blog post originally appeared on the association’s website here.