The bloom isn't quite off the rose yet, as far as the industry's view of the Trump administration is concerned. The tax cuts were welcome, and the regulatory rollback—though not entirely beneficial—offered help to those mired in compliance details and expense.
However, this administration's policies have been a mixed bag for the tire and rubber industry, as President Trump's State of the Union address unwittingly emphasized.
The creation of 600,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs is certainly good news, and the tire industry seized on Trump's remarks on infrastructure legislation as hope for action on a long-overdue investment in the nation's roads and bridges.
Not only that, but new funds for road projects represent an opportunity for rubber-modified asphalt—an innovative and environmentally friendly product that improves notably on the performance of traditional asphalt paving materials—to gain widespread acceptance.
When Trump turned to tariffs and trade, however, the news is more equivocal.
Thanks to the administration's tariffs on Chinese goods, "our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime," Trump said.
In the tire and auto parts industry, however, only retreaders and domestic mold makers—who face sharp competition from the Chinese—are totally for tariffs. Many others fear the disruption in international supply chains that tariffs can create.
Some in the industry also are nervous about the loss of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump discarded as "a catastrophe," and whether his U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement can win approval in Congress. Again, the supply chain is at risk, along with any number of production facilities in Mexico and Canada.
The United Steelworkers union, to be sure, shed no tears whatsoever upon the death of NAFTA. But the USW is concerned that the Trump administration may not be following through on its promise to preserve American jobs.
"The administration has made far too little progress to suggest that the president's trade promises have been kept," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. Gerard cited the loss of thousands of General Motors jobs in the U.S. to Mexico as emblematic of problems with Trump's trade policies.
To put it mildly, 2019 promises to be an eventful year, politically and economically. The promises to U.S. companies and workers contained in Trump's State of the Union address, and whether they will be kept, unfortunately may turn out to be issues of nail-biting suspense.