It is strange how the media often respond to the prospects of tariffs on imports by pointing to foreign-owned factories in the United States, implying that these are somehow at risk if tariffs are imposed. The NYT gives us an example of this reporting today in a front page article.

The piece highlights a number of foreign-owned factories in the United States and includes data on foreign direct investment by country and also employment levels. It also includes the warning:

"But political and business leaders here in Hamilton County, a conservative stronghold where Donald J. Trump won a majority of the votes, worry that the president’s attacks on trading partners and exhortations to 'Buy American' could set off a protectionist spiral of tariffs and import restrictions, hurting consumers and workers."

This seems to be a non-sequitur. Tariffs on imports increase the incentive for foreign companies to invest in the United States. They allow them to produce for the U.S. market and get around any tariffs. The first Japanese auto factories in the United States were a direct response to the "voluntary export restraints" on the major Japanese manufacturers agreed to in the Reagan years. The cars that Toyota and other companies produced in the United States did not count against these limits.

There are good arguments to be made against putting up import tariffs, but the idea that it would somehow hurt foreign direct investment in the United States is not one of them. If new tariffs are put in place, it would more likely increase foreign investment than reduce it.