Why Donald Trump Has NAFTA All Wrong

On Tuesday I received my iPhone X, after waiting almost a month to have it my hands. The journey my iPhone made from manufacturing to my hands explains why attacking NAFTA endangers American workers. I use American to refer to workers in the United States, Canada and México, after all we are in North America. But “America First” should be about American workers is what some of you may be thinking. It sounds nice, but will it work? No, it won’t work because of the supply chains that have evolved into making devices like the iPhone.

The iPhone X is composed of many parts. There are about 34 main components in the iPhone. They come from about eight different countries: The United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and yes, China. Each of these countries create parts for the iPhone that is then assembled in China, the Foxconn factory to be exact. And each country’s workers made some money from the iPhone that I purchased.

My iPhone cost me a little over $1,200. I ordered it on November 3 and received it on November 28. Sometime between November 3 rd and November 22 nd, my iPhone was put together in Zheng Zhou China. On November 22, my new iPhone started its journey to my hands. It left China on November 26 and arrived the same day in Anchorage, Alaska. From there it made its way to Louisville on the 26 th and then on to Longwood, Florida on the 28 th, where later that date I received it in Orlando.

How much money did Apple make off my $1,200 is up for debate, but what is important to note is that the $1,200 I spent on the phone trickled down to workers in Britain, China, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Neither Canadian nor Mexican workers benefited directly from my iPhone purchase.

Donald Trump and his ilk would have you believe that Tim Cook is about to upend decades of building supply chains and start making the iPhone exclusively in the United States. That’ll never happen because the supply chain is too dependent on global production to suddenly start building in one country only. But, nonetheless, the U.S. worker is still benefitting from my iPhone purchase.

But what would be better for the American worker is bolstering NAFTA to the point that most, if not all, of the iPhone is made in North America. Foxconn already operates in México. Many high-tech components are made in Canada, México and the United States. It is not inconceivable that Apple could streamline its supply chain to the point where a great majority of tomorrow’s iPhone is built in North America benefiting American workers across North America.

But, and unfortunately, too many U.S. workers are too focused on the Mexican boogeyman to understand that a stronger and more intertwined NAFTA benefits all workers, including U.S. workers. It took six days for my iPhone to arrive in my hands because Trump and nativists would rather attack México and NAFTA then to understand how wrong they truly are.

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