The North American auto industry this month learned of another pinch point across its already-troubled supply network — one that directly or indirectly employs 7.1 million Americans and accounts for about 3.5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
That new pinch point? Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott happens to be up for reelection this year.
Attempting to aid himself politically, Abbott instituted "safety inspections" by state officials of every truck coming from Mexico in the name of "border security."
Keep in mind that the trucks' contents had already been X-rayed and thoroughly searched by federal authorities at the border. Abbott's mandate involved only things such as working turn signals and brake operations. But the result was a massive backup to cross-border commerce and an unnecessary delay by up to 30 hours delivering to customers in the U.S. — including automakers and their suppliers awaiting parts and goods.
After a week, Abbott abandoned the stunt on April 15, and commerce across the nation's southern border began to flow as before. But the damage was already done, and the same flawed strategy could be enacted again.
U.S., Canadian and Mexican citizens and businesses have reaped the benefits of largely unrestricted trade among the three countries since 1994. Even during the Trump administration, the North American Free Trade Agreement was renegotiated into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and ratified.