Among the many issues that will define the 2024 presidential campaign, protecting American jobs and reviving domestic manufacturing are concerns that will be front and center.

While major-party candidates have claimed to be champions on the issue, Donald Trump’s presidency was marked by a strong emphasis on defending American industry from unfair international competition. 

The steel industry was a special concern, with Trump’s sweeping tariffs on foreign steel imports a cornerstone policy of his administration. With Trump continuing to campaign on these principles today, it should come as little surprise that Japan-based Nippon Steel’s proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel has become a significant topic.

The issue of a foreign-owned company acquiring what many consider to be an American icon has swiftly transitioned from a headline in the business pages to a contentious issue in the political arena. The major candidates running for the nation’s highest office have come out against the merger. 

While some observers point out this may have ostensibly been done in an attempt to win the endorsement of the United Steelworkers — who are staunchly opposed to the deal for a series of misguided reasons — many others would be quick to point out that this position would also seem a natural one for Trump to take.

Unfortunately for Trump, the effort has been to no avail. Less than a week after President Biden stated his opposition to the deal, the United Steelworkers endorsed him for reelection. This undoubtedly came as a blow to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, which have been making significant inroads with union households in recent years. 

However, there is a silver lining. This twist of political fate has provided Trump the opportunity to rethink his support of a policy position that could hamper America’s ability to innovate and compete globally and that The Wall Street Journal has cautioned could lead to “the swampiest example of corporate-insider political favoritism in many a year.”

A closer and more nuanced examination of the proposed deal reveals that it benefits the broader U.S. economy and environment. As U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt recently stated, this combination “creates a more competitive market here with one of the U.S.’s greatest allies.” In essence, U.S. Steel will remain an American company, retaining its name and brand.

For workers, Nippon Steel will honor all collective bargaining agreements with the United Steelworkers. Also, not only will the deal see U.S. Steel headquarters remain in Pittsburgh, ensuring that critical steel jobs stay in Pennsylvania, but it will see Nippon Steel relocate its own American headquarters from Houston to Pittsburgh and invest $1.4 billion into U.S. Steel’s older mills. 

This should be seen as a boon for Pennsylvanians, as well as the more than 11,000 jobs and $3.6 billion in economic activity supported by U.S. Steel in the state.

Conversely, should the deal fall through, it would mean giving way to a concerted lobbying campaign by jilted suitor Cleveland-Cliffs, which lost the bidding war for U.S. Steel last summer. Opposing the deal could not only clear the way for the company to scoop up U.S. Steel at a 45 percent discount to its previous runner-up offer — an option that it is already publicly mulling — but it could also harm consumers by resulting in a domestic steel-making monopoly that would control as much as 80 percent of the steel sold to the American auto industry. 

Trump previously ran to drain the swamp of such corporate rent-seeking, and he would be wise to stick to his principles on the issue now.

Political and policy decisions, especially in an election year, are undoubtedly complex and multifaceted. However, Trump should re-evaluate his opposition to the proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel in light of the potential benefits it could bring. As the U.S. economy faces the dual challenges of recovery and transformation, voters increasingly know the need for policies that ensure long-term prosperity. Remaining on the wrong side of this issue, I fear, could be costly at the ballot box in November.