Thomas Howard: Border squabble poses threat to state

By THOMAS HOWARD,

Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant sat down with Y’allPolitics to talk about how his last legislative session as governor had gone. Most of what he said toed the party line, but there was one part that caught my attention.

In the video interview, Bryant said, “Mississippi is an economic powerhouse now. We are an international entity. We are doing business all over the world.”

That got me wondering who Mississippi is trading with, how much we trade and what goods are coming and going from our ports. Luckily, the U.S. Census Bureau has a nifty data setup, US Trade Online, where import export data can be pulled up for each state.

Bryant wasn’t lying. Mississippi is an international entity with over $11 billion worth of goods being exported in 2018. Surprisingly enough, petroleum fuels, though not from crude oil, outpace agriculture products as our highest exporter. In fact, Mississippi is the third largest exporting state of petrol oil from bitumen material, whatever that is.

The goods we export, however, were not the biggest surprise from the U.S. Census’ data. Who we trade with was much more concerning.

Bryant, along with many others in our state, is an ardent supporter of president Trump, who has, in recent days, been floating around the idea of closing ports of entry along the southern U.S. border. It’s a move economists have said would cause huge delays in trade from Mexico and Latin America, which happen to be among Mississippi’s largest trading partners.

For 2018, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Brazil and Guatemala all graced the top 10 list of export destinations for Mississippi goods. Those five alone made up 30 percent of our state’s total exports for the year. Mexico and Brazil, along with Venezuela, also were in the top 10 for 2018 imports.

The Mississippi GOP’s support for Trump’s policies has been fairly steady so far, and I can’t help but feel concern about the border closure idea and its impact on Mississippi.  Should the ports of entry be closed, will our state’s conservative representatives speak out or will they keep true to the party line?

Bryant was right, Mississippi is an economic powerhouse. Our elected representatives will need to have the courage to keep it that way.

Thomas is the managing editor of the Newton County Appeal. He can be reached at thoward@newtoncountyappeal.com

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