After meeting with Trump, FedEx chief backs trade deals

FedEx Corp. founder and CEO Fred Smith of Memphis, who met with President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 17, made a speech Friday praising the benefits of free trade and denouncing government intervention, reports the Memphis Business Journal. Trump and Smith didn’t made public the nature of their conversation, but Trump has called for more tariffs and voiced opposition to trade deals, including the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“Trade has made America great, and expanding trade has been a bipartisan pursuit for over 80 years. The failure to continue to do so would be a severe mistake with enormous consequences for America and the world,” said Smith. “We urge the Trump Administration to put its stamp on a revised TPP by addressing any concerns it sees, and making any additional improvements to promote trade, rather than restrict it.”

The comments by FedEx’s chairman, president and CEO came Friday, Dec. 9, at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness’ National Council on Competitiveness Forum, in Washington, D.C., an annual C-suite invitation-only event covering issues related to maintaining America’s competitiveness globally.

Though Smith conceded that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be updated, he said a withdrawal “would have massive economic repercussions.There are myriad reasons why that would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy.”

Americans should not expect that a withdrawal from NAFTA would mean a return of those jobs to the U.S., Smith said.

“In fact, it’s possible that many U.S. manufacturers would either find suppliers in other countries or use Mexican production to export to other markets under Mexico’s 40-plus free trade agreements,” he said.

Smith came out strongly for free trade and against “government-directed economies,” a likely reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s recent moves regarding Carrier and Boeing. … Trade contributes more than 40 million jobs, Smith said, of which tens of thousands are at FedEx.

The U.S. “wins when we enter free trade agreements,” Smith said, and “contrary to public perception, the U.S. enjoys a surplus with those trading partners in manufacturing and has global surpluses in services and agriculture.”

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