From its home on the banks of Mark Twain’s Mississippi river to its dedication to using American steel, the Winegard Company is the sort of flag-waving, family owned US manufacturer that Donald Trump loves to celebrate.
The satellite television dishes that its Burlington, Iowa, factory punches out every three or four seconds sit on roofs across the US, while its domed antennas bring mobile internet and TV to legions of grandparents criss-crossing the country in recreational vehicles.
But these days executives at the company, based in one of the many Midwest counties that Mr Trump won in last year’s election, are bemused with the president.
Having put a “Made in America” agenda designed to restore manufacturing jobs at the centre of its economic policy, the Trump administration is actually making business more complicated for Winegard, they complain. Even worse, it is causing the company to consider moving production outside the US for the first time in its history.
Mr Trump’s push to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which begins this week when negotiators from Canada and Mexico descend on Washington for the first round of talks, are putting at risk Winegard’s foray into a fast-growing Mexican market it spent years cultivating.
“Mexico as a developing nation is very important to us. They’re developing the same technology that we’ve been manufacturing and trading in for the past 15 years,” says Jim Riffel, the general manager of Winegard’s satellite division and an almost 40-year veteran of the company. “What Nafta really does is simple: it puts us on an equal playing field…
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