Speaker Bryan Riley at the 2018 FPAA Spring Policy Summit

“Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies. They are our allies. We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade ware against our friends, weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world, all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion. It is an American triumph. One we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom.

After the second world war, America led the way to dismantle trade barriers and create a world trading system that set the stage for decades of unparalleled economic growth.

Yes, back in 1776 our founding fathers believed that free trade was worth fighting for. And we can celebrate their victory because today trade is at the core of the alliance that secure the peace and guarantee our freedom. It is the source of prosperity and the path to an even brighter future for America.”

-Ronald Reagan, November 1988

This quote not only kicked off speaker Bryan Riley’s presentation at the FPAA’s 2018 Spring Policy Summit, but it also captured the tone of the entire event.

In a time when international trade is shrouded in confusion and uncertainty, Bryan Riley provided his audience with perspective and comic relief, utilizing quotes from President Ronald Reagan, and clips from iconic movies like Ferris Bueler’s Day Off and Office Space to demonstrate the dangerous reality of the current situation with NAFTA, and other protectionist policies of the current administration.

Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you are more than likely familiar with the scene from Ferris Bueler where Ben Stein, portraying a high school history teacher, blabbers on monotonously about the history of protectionist trade policies in the US to a room full of half-awake students with mouths agape and eyes glazed over.

“Anyone? Anyone?”

Well, in that iconically comedic scene, Stein discusses some rather important issues regarding international trade and the dangers of protectionism. He brings up the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930, a protectionist law passed at the beginning of the Great Depression that imposed high tariffs on foreign imports. The bill was meant to alleviate the economic strife of the era, but instead only exacerbated the problems, and caused the Depression to last well into the late 1930’s.

Than came the transition to modern protectionist policies.

Using a clip from the comedy, Office Space, Riley compared the new Steel and Aluminum tariffs to a scheme concocted by the films protagonist. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross went on CNN to claim that the increase in tariffs would only affect “6/10ths of a cent” on a can of Campbells soup. But as stated in Office Space, that “6/10ths of a cent” add up to millions of dollars over time. And with a company like Campbell’s soup who manufactures hundreds of thousands of cans daily, that simple “6/10ths of a cent” could cost them greatly.

The presentation ended with another great Reagan quote that provided some hope for the future of trade in spite of current turmoil:

“Where others fear trade and economic growth, we see opportunities for creating new wealth and undreamed-of opportunities for millions in our own land and beyond. Where others seek to throw up barriers, we seek to bring them down; where others take counsel of their fears, we follow our hopes.”

Sabrina Hallman of Sierra Seeds Company

-Author: Sabrina Hallman-Sierra Seeds