Archive for December, 2011

What are the Positions of Presidential Candidates on Trade?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

As a candidate for president in 2007-2008, the then-Illinois senator, Barrack Obama talked a good game.  In December 2007 at the Des Moines Register debate, he pledged “there’s no doubt that NAFTA needs to be amended. “  At a June 2008 speech in Flint, MI, he said, “If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interests, then American workers will continue to be undermined, and public support for robust trade will continue to erode.”

But as president, Obama’s flip-flops on trade rank up there with the best moves of an Olympic gymnast.  He pushed hard for passage of the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, all based fail NAFTA template.  He has instructed his team at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to spearhead the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement involving nine Pacific region nations, including Vietnam and Brunei, two undemocratic countries with serious and well-documented human and labor rights problems.

So how about the Republicans?  Former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, has the most detailed position on trade of all the GOP candidates.  Romney supports the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama that were passed by Congress and signed by Obama.  He also calls for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in addition to new FTAs with nations such as Brazil and India.

However, Romney would get tough with China by imposing “targeted tariffs” or economic sanctions for unfair trade practices or misappropriated American technology.  He would also designate China as a currency manipulator and instruct the Commerce Department to impose countervailing duties.  Romney would also pursue the “formation of a ‘Reagan Economic Zone.’ This zone would codify the principles of free trade at the international level and place the issues now hindering trade in services and intellectual property, crucial to American prosperity and that of other developed nations, at the center of the discussion.”

Not much can be said for Newt Gingrich on the subject of trade and jobs. The once-powerful House speaker wants to make “mutual trade”–neither free trade nor protectionism–the country’s goal,” whatever that means.  Back in 2006, Gingrich felt that protectionism helps China and India challenge U.S. supremacy.  Writing on his website, he said, “In the US, there exists a coalition of union leaders who prefer protection over competition. This liberal coalition complains about companies’ outsourcing jobs while insisting on corporate taxes that encourage companies to go overseas. They prefer that government impose on business obsolete, absurd work rules, even though these raise costs, lower productivity, and make America less competitive in the world market. The challenge to American economic supremacy from 1.3 billion Chinese and more than 1.1 billion Indians is vastly greater than anything we have previously seen.  India’s embrace of capitalism and China’s bizarre combination of Marxist-Leninist government and free market initiatives will create a future where one-fourth of the world’s markets will be controlled by these countries.  Those who advocate economic isolationism and protectionism are advocating a policy that could help China and India surpass the US in economic power in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s plan for “Energizing American Jobs and Security” on his campaign website makes no mention of trade issues.  However, in his 2010 book Fed up!, Perry says “I see an America where the innovation and hard work of the American people creates still more opportunities, jobs, and wealth. I see a nation that is not cowering to the prospect of a united Europe or an ever-growing China and India, but rather welcomes those markets and many others as opportunities for the entrepreneurial and industrious spirit of the American people. I see a world where free trade opens up more doors and where people embrace trade’s benefit to both America and the rest of the world.”

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann pledges to cut spending and the size of government, reduce taxes, and repeal onerous legislation, such as ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank Act.  The first of the 11 points of her “American Jobs, Right Now” blueprint is to repatriate the foreign earnings of American corporations to create immediate jobs, but the other ten points make no mention of trade issues.  However, she voted for the Peru FTA in 2007, her first year in the House, and she backed the Korea, Colombia and Panama FTAs this year.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum pledges to negotiate five Free Trade Agreements and submit them to Congress in the first year of his presidency.  During his tenure in Congress, Santorum voted for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and all of the free trade agreements of the George W. Bush era including CAFTA, Chile, Oman and Singapore.  All of these votes resulted in Senator Santorum compiling a perfect 100% rating from the CATO Institute, the libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, one of the Koch brothers that own the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is another candidate whose economic planks are standard Republican positions.  To understand Paul’s views it is best to look at his quotes and votes. During his two stints in Congress, Paul voted against NAFTA and free trade agreements with Australia, CAFTA, Chile, Peru and Singapore.  In addition, Paul voted to withdraw from the WTO and to not renew the “fast track” authority for the president to negotiate FTAs because he feels it cedes power from Congress to the executive branch.

In his 2008 presidential campaign, Paul explained his opposition to FTAs as threats to American sovereignty, saying “I opposed both the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization, both of which were heavily favored by the political establishment.  Many supporters of the free trade market supported these agreements. Nearly six decades ago when the International Trade Organization was up for debate, conservatives and libertarians agreed that supranational trade bureaucracies with the power to infringe upon American sovereignty were undesirable.”

Jon Huntsman is selling himself as an unabashed free trader. The former Utah governor boasts of leading trade missions overseas that helped grow his state’s exports, and he touts his appointment as deputy U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush as giving him experience in helping to negotiate trade agreements across the globe. Like Romney, Huntsman would push for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he would initiate FTAs with Japan, India, Taiwan and other nations. Huntsman also supports the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

In contrast, Buddy Roemer has taken a hard line against Free Trade Agreements and China. In a September 1, 2011 speech in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, the former Louisiana congressman and governor unveiled his jobs plan where he slammed open trade with China as the “biggest disaster for the American economy.”  He claims to be “the only presidential candidate who is speaking the truth about global free trade.”   To level the playing field on trade, Roemer called for an elimination of the foreign tax credit for taxes paid to a foreign country.   In addition, he proposed the elimination of tax deductions for business expenses and costs of goods sold for companies that buy goods or services outside the United States.  Only businesses that employ American workers and buy American products would be allowed these tax deductions.  He also called for importers to pay the government an adjustment fee “equal to the unfair advantage they gain from importing goods from foreign countries to the United States.”

It’s a shame that the Republican candidate with the best position on trade has garnered less than 1% support in the polls so that he isn’t being included in the debates with the other Republican candidates.  This is the same position that Congressman Duncan Hunter occupied in the 2008 election when he was the only candidate on the right side of the trade issue and supported American manufacturing.  He wasn’t included in the 2008 debates so millions of people missed out on hearing his message.

When are Americans going to wake up to what is really causing the lack of jobs in the United States?  The real culprits are free trade agreements with Mexico, China, and other countries, as well as the outsourcing of manufacturing offshore..  They have led to the loss of nearly six million manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.   Since manufacturing jobs create an average of three to four other jobs, we’ve really lost 18 to 24 million jobs.  We need to review our unilateral free trade agreements with China and other countries that only seem to benefit other countries at the cost of jobs and even whole industries in the United States.  We need to let all the candidates for president know that we don’t want any more free trade agreements.  We need to let them know that we want them to support the American manufacturing industry and stop giving our wealth and jobs to foreign countries.


What Have Been the Consequences of China’s Accession to the WTO?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The recently-released U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report states that is has been ten years since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), and “the concerns that originally surrounded China’s accession to the WTO—that China’s blend of capitalism and state-directed economic control conflict with the organization’s free market principles—have proven to be prophetic.”  What have been the consequences of China’s accession to the WTO and what are the implications for the future?

At that time, China did not meet all of the traditional requirements for accession, but the WTO took a calculated gamble that China could effectuate the reforms necessary to conform to those requirements within a reasonable period of time. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was established by the United States Congress in part to monitor the outcome of that gamble.

Ten years later, it’s obvious from the reports that the WTO lost the gamble.  The recent Commission reports that China’s state-directed financial system and industrial policy continues to contribute to trade imbalances, asset bubbles, misallocation of capital, and dangerous inflationary pressures…China’s adherence to WTO commitments remains spotty despite the decade that the country’s rulers were given to adjust.”  As a result, these circumstances create an uneven playing field for China’s trading partners and threaten to deprive other WTO signatories of the benefit of their bargain.  This is an understatement of the effect on the economy of China’s main trading partner ? the United States.

Chapter one analyzes these issues, beginning with an examination of U.S.-China trading and financial relations and concluding with an evaluation of China’s role in the WTO.    It also examined the implications of China’s being relieved of its burden of facing an annual review by the WTO of its compliance due to the fact that the ten-year probationary period ends this year

U.S.-China Trading Relations

For the first eight months of 2011, China’s goods exports to the United States were $255.4 billion, while U.S. goods exports to China were $66.1 billion, yielding a U.S. deficit of $189.3 billion.  This represents an increase of nine percent over the same period in 2010 ($119.4 billion). During this period China exported four dollars’ worth of goods to the United States for each dollar in imports China accepted from the United States. In 2010, the United States shipped just seven percent of its total exports of goods to China; China shipped 23 percent of its total goods exports to the United States.

In the ten years since China joined the WTO, the U.S. trade deficit with China has grown by 330 percent.  This trade deficit is not explained by a broader trend of American dependence on imports.  In the first eight months of 2011, Chinese goods accounted for 20 percent of U.S. imports, while U.S. goods accounted for only five percent of Chinese imports.  China’s portion of America’s trade deficit has nearly tripled  ? from 22 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2009 and 55 percent in 2010 – while the overall U.S. trade deficit with the world has grown from $376.7 billion in 2000 to $500 billion in 2010.

China’s Share of the U.S. Global Trade Deficit (by percentage), 2000–2010

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Trade in Goods and Services (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, August 15, 2011).

The Commission states “These data suggest that the growth in the U.S. global trade deficit reflects growth in the U.S. trade deficit with China and that other emerging economies are being replaced by China as a final supplier of finished exports to the United States.”  Of more serious concern is not the size of the U.S. trade deficit with China but the composition of goods.   Chinese manufacturing has undergone a dramatic restructuring during the last ten years, away from labor-intensive goods toward investment-intensive goods.  Production now is driven less by low-cost labor and more by low-cost capital, which is being used to build next-generation manufacturing facilities and to produce advanced technology products for export.  This is demonstrated by the decrease in Chinese exports of labor-intensive products, such as clothing, footwear, furniture, and travel goods as a percentage of total exports.  In 2000, exports of these labor-intensive products constituted 37 percent of all Chinese exports. By 2010, this percentage had fallen to just 14 percent.

It’s apparent that this shift has serious implications for the U.S. economy.  When China joined the WTO, the United States had already lost production of low-value-added, low-wage-producing commodities such as clothing and toys.  But America’s export strength lay in complex capital goods, such as aircraft, electrical machinery, generators, and medical and scientific equipment.   “From 2004 to 2011, U.S. imports of Chinese advanced technology products grew by 16.5 percent on an annualized basis, while U.S. exports of those products to China grew by only 11 percent.6 In August 2011, U.S. exports of advanced technology products to China stood at $1.9 billion, while Chinese exports of advanced technology products to the United States reached $10.9 billion, setting a record one-month deficit of more than $9 billion. On a monthly basis, the United States now imports more than 560 percent more advanced technology products from China than it exports to that country.

U. S. Exports to and Imports from China of Advanced Technology  Products in the Month of June ($ billion) 2004-2011 Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Trade in Goods and Services (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, August 15, 2011).

The Commission states that “the weakness in U.S. exports of advanced technology products to China is explained in part by barriers to market access experienced by U.S. companies attempting to sell into the Chinese market.”  Import barriers are part of China’s policy of switching from imports to domestically produced goods.  China’s policy of ‘‘indigenous innovation’’ protects domestically produced goods by discriminating against imports in the government procurement process, particularly at the provincial and local levels of government.

Seventy-one percent of American businesses in China believe that foreign businesses are subject to more onerous licensing procedures than Chinese businesses according to a recent survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.  A similar 2011 study by the European Chamber of Commerce in China found that inconsistencies in the procurement process employed by the Chinese central government resulted in a lost opportunity for European businesses that is equal in size to the entire economy of South Korea, or one trillion dollars.

China’s Role in the WTO

Since the last Report, the U. S. brought three new, China-related disputes to the WTO.  “On December 22, 2010, the United States requested consultations with China over its subsidies for domestic manufacturers of wind power equipment (DS419).  The European Union (EU) and Japan joined the consultations in January.  The case has not yet advanced to the hearing stage.  In the second case, the U. S. requested consultations with China regarding its imposition of antidumping duties on chickens imported from the United States.   In addition, on October 6, 2011, the U.S. Trade Representative submitted information to the WTO identifying nearly 200 subsidies that China, in contravention of WTO rules, failed to notify to the WTO.  Three previous WTO cases involving U.S.-China trade are both open and active. The Raw Materials case, which resulted in a decision favorable to the United States, is under appeal as of August 31, 2011.  The Flat-rolled Electrical Steel case and the Electronic Payments case have both advanced to formal dispute settlement, though no decision has been reached…The United States has brought a total of seven cases against China at the WTO concerning subsidies or grants. Of the seven, four were settled through consultation, two were decided in favor of the United States, and one remains undecided.”

China’s WTO Probationary Period Ends This Year

During the 15 years of negotiations leading up to China’s accession, the United States and the European Union expressed concern about potential negative consequences that might befall the WTO due to China’s sheer size and lack of a market-based economy and they insisted on a series of China-specific admission requirements.  “The centerpiece of this ‘WTO–Plus’ admission package was the Transitional Review Mechanism, which required China to submit to an annual review for the first eight years of its membership in the organization, as well as a final review in the tenth year.  The Transitional Review Mechanism is in addition to, rather than in lieu of, the normal review procedure, known as the Trade Policy Review Mechanism that all WTO members must undergo every few years in perpetuity.”

The temporary Transitional Review Mechanism appeared to be more stringent than the Trade Policy Review Mechanism.  “However, the procedural aspects of the Transitional Review Mechanism rendered it a paper tiger.  Reports produced by the Transitional Review Mechanism require the unanimous consensus of all members involved, including China.  This puts China in the position of acting as judge in its own trial,” so that the result consistently has been ‘‘light and generally unspecific criticism,” according to trade scholars such as William Steinberg.

The Transitional Review Mechanism provided the United States with a somewhat useful tool for fact-finding and focusing attention on controversies within the U.S.-China trade relationship, but this is the final year of the Transitional Review Mechanism as China’s tenth year of WTO membership.  The consequences of this are:

  • The tools available to the United States to carry out fact-finding related to China’s compliance with WTO obligations will now be limited to the Trade Policy Review Mechanism and the various review channels of individual subsidiary bodies.
  • China’s membership in the WTO has reached a point of chronological maturity at which China was expected to be in full compliance with its WTO obligations.

China initially “accepted the China-specific rules contained in the protocol of accession, avoided litigation within the WTO, and was quick to comply with all demands of the WTO’s dispute resolution process.”  But after ten years of observing and learning the subtleties of WTO procedural law, “Beijing has become much more aggressive about bringing claims against trading partners, appealing decisions that are rendered against its favor, and pushing the envelope of noncompliance. Additionally, China has grown very savvy about using the dispute settlement process and bilateral free trade agreements to undermine the effectiveness of China-specific rules.”

According to a recent study by international trade law scholars at the University of Hong Kong, of the five WTO cases filed by China between September 2008 and March 2011, four of them were designed to use the dispute settlement process to change or undo rules contained in China’s Accession Protocol and purposely focused on the vague terminology found in the Protocol.

China has exploited the vague terminology by using creative interpretations to render entire provisions inapplicable.  “Since 2002, China has concluded nine free trade agreements and commenced negotiations for five more.  In all 14, a precondition to negotiation has been agreement by the other party to grant China market economy status.  These preconditions are targeted toward eliminating certain restrictions placed upon China during accession to the WTO,”  particularly, “the one in which the instituting party is allowed to use price comparisons from third-party countries in order to show dumping behavior by Chinese companies” when antidumping proceedings are instituted against China.

Also, for purposes of identifying illegal subsidies and calculating countervailing measures, “the instituting party may act with reference to prices and conditions prevailing in third-party countries in lieu of China.”  However, under the terms of the Accession Protocol, “China’s nonmarket-economy status is set to expire in 2016, at which time these provisions will cease to have effect.”

However, “the expiration in 2016 of China’s status as a nonmarket economy under the Accession Protocol does not negate applicable U.S. domestic law, which will continue to have effect beyond 2016.   If enough WTO members accord market economy status prematurely to China, it will diminish support for Washington’s position that China has a long way to go to merit market economy status.  China has more bargaining power in bilateral negotiations with smaller nations than it does in multilateral negotiations at the WTO.”  The Commission concluded that “China hopes gradually to undermine the Washington consensus, strong-arm its way into market economy status, and shake free of restrictive terms and obligations in its accession agreement” by pushing for concessions from a series of bilateral negotiations under the auspices of free trade agreements.  In addition, “China is not willing to comply fully with the decisions of the WTO dispute settlement process and prioritizes the preservation of its own political system above fidelity to WTO commitments.”

Implications for the United States

The Report states, “The U.S. trade deficit with China has ballooned to account for more than half of the total U.S. trade deficit with the world and creates a drag on future growth of the U.S. economy.  This problem has many causes, among which are barriers to U.S. exports and continued undervaluation of the RMB.  The result is lost U.S. jobs. While the exact number of U.S. jobs lost to China trade is hotly disputed—economist C. Fred Bergsten has estimated 600,000 jobs on the low end, while the Economic Policy Institute has estimated 2.4 million jobs on the high end—many parties agree that the costs are staggering.”

While the Chinese RMB has appreciated by roughly six percent over the course of the last year, there is widespread agreement that it remains deeply undervalued (30-40 percent according to some economists). As a result, “U.S. exports to China remain subject to a de facto tariff, Chinese exports to the United States remain artificially discounted, and Chinese household consumption remains suppressed.  The Report states this “contributes to a persistent pattern of massive and dangerous trade distortions, unnatural pools of capital, and dangerous inflationary pressures that threaten the stability of the global economy.”  China is no longer content to be the low-end factory of the world ? the government is intent on moving up the value chain into the realm of advanced technology products, high-end research and development, and next generation production  at the expense of America’s high-technology industries.  The Commission opines that “it no longer seems inconceivable that the RMB could mount a challenge to the dollar, perhaps within the next five to ten years.  Chinese financial authorities are laying the groundwork for these ambitions via a series of bilateral arrangements with foreign companies and financial centers.”

The U. S. and the EU went to considerable lengths during the 15-year negotiation process “to design and negotiate a system of checks and balances that would permit China to accede to the WTO without jeopardizing the smooth functioning of the organization or endangering the position of existing members in the international trading system.”  In less than ten years, “China has learned the nuances of WTO law and has begun to use it systematically to undo the finely wrought balance that U.S. and EU negotiators designed.  At the same time, China has shown that it will subordinate its international commitments to its domestic political preferences and deny to its trading partners the benefit of their bargain.”

This chapter concludes with the comment, “China has grown more assertive and creative in using WTO procedures to alleviate, eliminate, and avoid certain restrictions in the Accession Protocol.  At the same time, the WTO has ruled that China’s existing system of state monopoly over imports of cultural products is inconsistent with WTO obligations.  China has not yet complied fully with the WTO ruling, and the United States has the right to initiate further proceedings to compel China to do so.”  This is an understatement to say the least.

Has President Obama or his staff read any of the last three reports?  Has any Congressional rep, Senator, or their staffs ever read through any of the Commission’s reports during the past ten years?  If they did, why didn’t they insist on the Bush administration and now the Obama administration initiating proceedings to compel China to comply with their WTO obligations?   Why didn’t our government do anything about China’s currency manipulation, product “dumping,” and subsidies to State-owned enterprises before they destroyed many of our domestic industries?   Why is China’s ten year probationary period concluding without anybody doing anything to prevent their becoming a full member of the WTO?  Why hasn’t the news media asked any of these questions of our elected officials?   Americans have been betrayed by their leaders, and we need to hold them accountable.  Every candidate for president and President Obama better read this latest report and tell the American people what they intend to do to address China’s threat to our economy and national security. The question is whether the news media will have the courage to ask these hard questions during the campaign for president.  The future of the United States as a sovereign nation is at stake.

Trends that are Changing the Future

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

A trend is a pattern of gradual change in a condition, output, or process that moves in a certain direction over time.  There are many trends that have occurred this year, but some are changing the way we work and conduct business.   We will take a look at just a few of them that are beginning to have an impact and could dramatically impact our lies if they continue in the future.

Biomimicry:  Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight.  The Wright Brothers, who created and flew the first airplane in 1903, derived inspiration for their airplane from observations of pigeons in flight.

The term biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry is defined in her book as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”.  Today, biomimicry is changing the way we research, invent, design, develop, and manufacture products.

The San Diego Zoo started its biomimicry programs in 2007, and the Zoological Society of San Diego recently partnered with Point Loma Nazarene University on an economic impact report looking into the feasibility of bringing another spoke into the region’s burgeoning green economy.  The report titled Biomimicry: An Economic Game Changer and estimated that biomimicry would have a $300 billion annual impact on the US economy, plus add an additional $50 billion in environmental remediation.

“The completed report articulates a compelling case for making the San Diego region a global biomimicry hub,” said Randy M. Ataide, executive director of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University.  “Biomimicry could represent a revolutionary change in our economy by transforming many of the ways we think about designing, producing, transporting and distributing goods and services.”

An informal alliance to transform an esoteric concept into what they hope is the beginning of a future industry cluster has formed the Biomimicry Bridge (Business, Research, Innovation, Development, Governance and Education).  A memorandum of understanding to facilitate growth of the Bridge organization has been in place since 2008 between the San Diego Zoo, the City of San Diego, CONNECT, UC San Diego, San Diego State University, Point Loma Nazarene University, and the University of San Diego.

“The key to biomimicry is the value we place on natural systems and species,” said Paula Brock, chief financial officer for the San Diego Zoo. “Biomimicry offers an opportunity to bring successful economics together with conservation. We hope this study will inspire new companies and entrepreneurs to focus upon the development of this field.”

A key finding of the report is that biomimicry holds the potential to attract sizable capital inflows, driven by the prospects of rapid growth and high rates of return, and that venture capital potentially could flow into the field at a pace at least equal to that of biotech, estimated to be about $4.5 billion in the U.S. in 2010.

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park house nearly 8,000 animals representing 840 species, and the San Diego Zoo’s accredited botanical garden has close to 40,000 species.  Allison Alberts, chief conservation and research officer for the San Diego Zoo, said “We are poised to offer the opportunity to be a living laboratory in helping biomimicry-based businesses grow.”  She added that the inspiration that comes from studying animals and plants could also be a revenue generator for the zoo. The study determined that the zoo is the only facilities-based provider of biomimicry services in the world and a natural to drive research and commercial applications.

A range of businesses in the region already are incorporating aspects of biomimicry in the design of products or ones they have on the drawing boards, said Ruprecht von Buttlar, director of finance and commercialization programs at CONECT, which serves as a networking group for investors, entrepreneurs and high-tech and life sciences professionals.

The San Diego Zoo’s Biomimicry website features a page on the latest news, research, and development of biomimetic products, a few of which are:

GreenShield: An environmentally friendly stain-resistant fabric finish inspired by lotus leaves:

Mirasol®, a display innovation by Qualcomm, mimics the microstructure of a butterfly’s wing to generate color without pigment in their handheld display technologies:

Biomatrica has developed DNA and RNA preservation technology based on the process in nature called anhydrobiosis:

Columbia Forest Products developed PureBond by manipulating soy proteins to behave like mussel byssal threads. Is the only urea-formeldehyde (carcinogen) free plywood glue on the market:

Cloud Computing: Cloud computing has become one of the hottest buzzwords in technology and  its birth as a term can be traced “to 2006, when large companies such as Google and Amazon began using ‘cloud computing’ to describe the new paradigm in which people are increasingly accessing software, computer power, and files over the Web instead of on their desktops.  It is an expansion of what has been known as software as a service (SaaS) in which cloud computing providers deliver applications via the internet that are accessed from web browsers and desktop and mobile apps, while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location.

This type of data center environment allows companies to get their applications up and running faster, with easier manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust IT resources (such as servers, storage, and networking) to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand.

Cloud computing is all the rage. “It’s become the phrase du jour,” says Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring, echoing many of his peers. The problem is that (as with Web 2.0) everyone seems to have a different definition.

On the Hyland blog, Glenn Gibson offers a simpler definition:  “The Cloud” is a term used to describe a wide range of technologies, which are accessible through high-speed connections to the internet and private networks.

Cloud computing is at an early stage, with a growing number of providers large and small delivering a variety of cloud-based services, from full-blown applications to storage services to spam filtering.  Today, for the most part, IT must plug into cloud-based services individually, but cloud computing aggregators and integrators are already emerging.

Cloud computing is a long-running trend with a far-out horizon.  This year, TechAmerica San Diego added the new category of SaaS/Cloud for the first time at the 2011 High Tech Awards held on October 28th.    Four companies were finalists, and the winner, ServiceNow develops and delivers a comprehensive suite of cloud-based services for enterprise IT management. For a single low subscription price, ServiceNow customers have access to nearly 20 native applications built on a common, extensible platform. ServiceNow supports all common ITIL processes including incident, problem, change, request fulfillment, service level management and others.  The three other finalists were:  Kyriba, Syntricity Inc., and The Active Network.

Cloud computing is also changing the way manufacturing companies can become ISO Certified at a price affordable for companies as small as less than 25 employees and under $1.5 million in sales.   ION Quality Systems provides an innovative Quality Management System designed to revolutionize businesses. Their customizable management tools, experience, and exemplary customer service make them a partner in quality assurance. They can prepare you to get your AS9100, ISO 9001:2008 or other certification more efficiently, economically, and effectively than a traditional quality system in as little as 90 days.

However, there are concerns about the cyber security of cloud computing, and the June issue of National Defense magazine featured an article on “Cloud Computing Trend Sparks Compliance Concerns.”   Because the Obama administration has focused on cloud computing for future information technology needs, there is concern that “data stored in the cloud must always be accessible from any location, thereby increasing hacker vulnerability and the need ? without degrading fast encryption and decryption ? for robust measures to deflect security breaches.” This same cyber security concern was the focus of a symposium on “CLOUD.GOV?

The Promise, Limits, and Reality” held by the San Diego chapter of the National Defense Industry Association on October 11-13, 2011.

Social Media:  Social networking is not new; social networks have been around for far longer than people have been online. Everyone has belonged to social networks, and they still participate in social networks whether they know it or not.  What is new is social media that provides online social networking.  In addition to the more popular, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, there are Foursquare, Yelp, Groupon, and Living Social.   The BLÜ Group – Advertising & Marketing has published a free social media guide to help businesses of all sizes, particularly small and mid-sized businesses, connect with customers and potential customers, stay engaged with them, and ultimately grow their bottom line.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter:  Most of us have been adding to our social media network to expand business opportunities, express opinions, and keep connected with people who change from one job to another.  Now, it is literally changing the way people conduct business, and view customers’ opinions and product ideas.  .

In the September 2011 issue of Industry Week, the article “Fueling Auto R&D with Social Media,” reported that Kia Motors Corporation  “decided to modify the seat design for their 2012 Optima as a result of a groundswell of complaints from consumers and automotive writers percolating on the Internet.”  Kia uses business intelligence software to monitor online comments about it vehicles and determined that it was bigger problem than they realized and needed to be fixed before the next major change in the model in a few years.

Ford also pays close attention to what people say about its products on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and elsewhere on the internet.  Nissan Motor Company is also trying to grow it fan base on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to leverage the maximum impact when it launches new models.  Nissan is also using social media as a research tool.  In August 2011, Nissan invited its more than 300,000 Facebook fans to suggest names for a new optional interior package for the Nissan Cube.  Eric Marx of Nissan said using social media to make ”real business decisions it absolutely the future. “  A cottage industry is emerging to aggregate the vast amount of online comments into actionable data.  Nielsen Online’s BuzzMetrics software promises to deliver consumer insights and real-time market intelligence, and WiseWindow’s MOBI (Mass Opinion Business Intelligence) software to predict consumer purchasing intent and behavior.

According to one of my friends that owns a staffing agency, LinkedIn is actually changing the way people seek and are being recruited for jobs.  Having a good LinkedIn profile can mean the difference between being hired or not.

Recruiters are searching the LinkedIn database to find candidates for specific positions.  They can use the free, “Advanced People Search” function available to all LinkedIn members. They can search members and activities within specific LinkedIn groups, and many others are using a paid service called LinkedIn Recruiter that provides significantly more search functionality.

In addition, similar to the way job seekers sign up for “job alerts” to get notified via email whenever a new job gets posted that meets a certain set of criteria, recruiters can also sign up for candidate alerts to notify them of new candidates who fit their requirements.

Unemployed people and those seeking better jobs need to learn how to optimize their LinkedIn profile to align with this process of job search and recruiting.  According to Marci Reynolds, CEO of J2B Marketing, a “Job Seeker 2 Business,”™ there are many things a job seeker can do to optimize their profile to help ensure that they “show up in the appropriate search results, show up higher than other candidates (LinkedIn SEO), and stand out among the search results. Some of her tips are:

  • Your profile should be 100% “complete,” per LinkedIn standards
  • Include a detailed work history, with clear job titles and well written job descriptions that describe both your responsibilities and your key accomplishments
  • Make sure your “industry” selection is tied to the job you want, not the job you had.
  • Make sure you have some recommendations from your connections
  • Use a professional, flattering profile photo that looks like you already have the role you’re seeking
  • Use a headline to effectively market your skills and abilities. Your LinkedIn headline is like your personal tagline

Klout: If you’re new to Twitter and haven’t heard of Klout, you will soon. Klout is the gold standard for measuring your influence on Twitter.  Klout uses several measurements to come up with a Klout Score for each and every Twitter user.

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

  • True Reach: the number of people you influence. When you post a message, these people tend to respond or share it.
  • Amplification: how much you influence people. When you post a message, how many people respond to it or spread it further? If people often act upon your content you have a high Amplification score.
  • Network Impact: the influence of the people in your True Reach. How often do top Influencers share and respond to your content? When they do so, they are increasing your Network score.

Klout assigns a number between 0 and 100 to represent how influential you are on Twitter.  This number may seem arbitrary, but it’s important for several reasons.

Firstly, Klout is a much better measurement of how “well” you’re doing on Twitter than your follower count. Not all followers may really be interested in what you have to say, so using this to measure your Twitter success is not a great strategy.  Klout uses a robust suite of different measurements – which includes engaged follower count – to come to one single Klout Score.

Secondly, Klout is important because it’s the standard measurement for influence in social media, and knowing your Klout score shows that you know a thing or two about tweeting.

Thirdly, focusing on increasing your Klout score will make you a better tweeter.  Klout emphasizes things like getting retweets and using @mentions to engage with your community. So if you change your Twitter strategy to try and increase your score, you will likely end up tweeting more frequently, replying to more users, and sharing more retweetable tweets.

There are several other contenders for influence measurement on Twitter, but Klout is the most talked-about, well-known influence measure out there, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it so you can join in the conversation.

Reshoring: Reshoring simply means returning manufacturing to America from offshore.

To help accelerate this trend, there is a new initiative with a plan to efficiently reduce our imports, increase our “net exports” and regain manufacturing jobs in a non-protectionist manner.  The Reshoring Initiative was founded by Harry Moser, retired president of GF Agie Charmilles LLC, a leading machine tool supplier in Lincolnshire, Illinois.  The Initiative shows how outsourcing within the United States can reduce a company’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of purchased parts and tooling and offer a host of other benefits while bringing U.S. manufacturing jobs home.

Harry Moser said, “Reshoring breaks out of the waiting-for-policy-decisions problem, the economic zero-sum-game and the increases in consumer prices and assures that the pie grows to the advantage of all Americans.  Reshoring also focuses on the manufacturing sector that has suffered so many job losses for decades and the Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that offer the best potential for job growth.”

The Initiative documents the benefits of sourcing in the United States for large manufacturers and helps suppliers convince their U.S. customers to source local.  Archstone Consulting’s 2009 survey showed that 60% of manufacturers use “rudimentary total cost models” and ignore 20% of the cost of offshoring.   If a manufacturer is not accounting for 20% of their costs to offshore, offshoring may not be the most economical decision.  In tough economic times and stiff global competition, no company can afford this.  To help companies make better sourcing decisions the Reshoring Initiative provides:

  • A free Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) software that helps manufacturers calculate the real offshoring impact on their P&L
  • Publicity to drive the reshoring trend
  • Access to NTMA/PMA Contract Manufacturing Purchasing Fairs to help manufacturers find competitive U.S. sources.

Manufacturing companies can reshore to:

  • Reduce pipeline and surge inventory impacts on Just-in-time operations
  • Improve the quality and consistency of products
  • Cluster manufacturing near R&D facilities, enhancing innovation
  • Reduce Intellectual Property and regulatory compliance risk
  • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The Initiative has received increasing visibility and influence: recognition by Industry Week magazine through inducting Harry Moser into its 2010 Manufacturing Hall of Fame, inclusion of the TCO concept in Cong. Wolf’s (R VA) “Bring Jobs Back to America Act” (H.R.516); numerous webinars; dozens of industry articles; presentations in major industry and government policy conferences in Chicago and Washington, DC; and coverage by CBS, CNBC, WSJ, USA Today and the Lean Nation radio show.

The Initiative is succeeding in changing OEMs’ behavior. Companies have committed to reshore after reading Initiative articles.  Fifty-seven representatives from large manufacturers and 113 custom U.S. manufacturers attended the May 12, 2011 NTMA/PMA Contract Manufacturing Purchasing Fair, where OEMs found competitive domestic suppliers to manufacture parts and tooling.  Sixty-four percent of the OEMs brought back to the U. S. at least some work that was currently offshored.

Of all the trends mentioned above, the Reshoring Initiative has the potential to provide the most benefit for America as a whole by reducing our trade deficit and providing increased job opportunities jobs for the millions of unemployed.   Let’s embrace these present trends to create a better future!