Archive for September, 2012

ITIF Report Details 50 Policies to Improve U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Last week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report titled, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Competitiveness Woes Behind: A National Traded Sector Competitiveness Strategy,” by Stephen Ezell and Robert Atkinson in which they stated, “A comprehensive strategy aimed at strengthening U.S. establishments competing in global markets is needed for the United States to boost short-term recovery and long-term prosperity…”

“The United States is increasingly isolated in its belief that countries don’t compete with one another and that only firms compete” said ITIF Senior Analyst Stephen Ezell, co-author of the report. “Our traded sector establishments are up against competitors that are aided in countless ways by their governments. It’s time to level the playing field.”

The report, presents 50 federal-level policy recommendations to help restore U.S. traded sector competitiveness, along with 13 state-level recommendations. The recommendations are organized around federal policies regarding the “4Ts” of technology, tax, trade, and talent, as well as policies to increase access to capital, reform regulations, and better assess U.S. traded sector competitiveness.

A nation’s traded sector includes industries such as manufacturing, software, engineering and design services, music, movies, video games, farming, and mining, which compete in international marketplaces and whose output is sold at least in part to nonresidents of the nation. They are the core engine of U.S. economic growth and face unique challenges.

Because these industries face competition in the global market that non-traded, local-serving industries (retail trade or personal services) do not, their success is riskier. “The health of U.S. traded sector enterprises in industries such as semiconductors, software, machine tools, or automobiles—all far more exposed to global competition than local-serving firms and industries—cannot be taken for granted.”

If a company like Boeing loses market share to Airbus, thousands of domestic jobs at Boeing, its suppliers, and the companies at which their employees spend money will be lost. In contrast, a local grocery store may compete for business with other supermarkets, but it is not threatened by international competition. If Safeway loses market share to Wal-Mart, the jobs remain in the United States.

Ezell and Atkinson state, “The fact that the U.S. traded sector has not created a single net new job in 20 years is a core reason for the current U.S. economic malaise.” They cite the research of Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence, who has demonstrated that “from 1990 until the Great Recession started in 2007, the U.S. achieved virtually no growth in traded sector jobs. The malaise has been a downright decline in manufacturing, as the United States lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing workforce in the previous decade, saw on net over 66,000 manufacturing establishments close, accrued a trade deficit in manufactured products of over $4 trillion, and experienced a decline in manufacturing output of 11 percent at a time when U.S. GDP increased by 11 percent (when measured properly).”

Ezell and Atkinson corroborate what I have written previously ? “every lost manufacturing job has meant the loss of an additional two to three jobs throughout the rest of the economy. The 32 percent loss of manufacturing jobs was a central cause of the country’s anemic overall job performance during the previous decade, when the U.S. economy produced, on net, no new jobs….at the rate of growth in manufacturing jobs that occurred in 2011, it would take until at least 2020 for employment to return to where the economy was in terms of manufacturing jobs at the end of 2007.”

The reasons why the authors emphasize the importance of manufacturing as a “traded sector” are:

  • It will be difficult for the U. S. to balance its foreign trade without a robust manufacturing sector because manufacturing accounts for 86 percent of U.S. goods exports and 60 percent of total U.S. exports.
  • Manufacturing remains a key source of jobs that both pay well.
  • Each manufacturing job supports as an average of 2.9 other jobs in the economy.
  • The average wages in U.S. high technology are 86 percent higher than the average of other private sector wages.
  • Manufacturing, R&D, and innovation go hand-in-hand.
  • The manufacturing sector accounts for 72 percent of all private sector R&D spending.
  • Manufacturing employs 63 percent of domestic scientists and engineers.
  • U.S. manufacturing firms demonstrate almost three times the rate of innovation as U.S. services firms.
  • Manufacturing is vital to U.S. national security and defense.

They contend that “the engines of a nation’s competitiveness are in fact not mom and pop small businesses, but rather firms in traded sectors, high-growth entrepreneurial companies, and U.S.-headquartered multinational corporations. Although such firms comprise far less than 1 percent of U.S. companies, they account for about 19 percent of private-sector jobs, 25 percent of private-sector wages, 48 percent of goods exports, and 74 percent of nonpublic R&D investment. And, since 1990, they have been responsible for 41 percent of the nation’s increase in private labor productivity.”

The report notes that “traded sector businesses improve the local economy in three ways:

  1. Traded sector businesses bring money into a region by selling to people and businesses outside the region.
  2. They help keep local money at home through import substitution, which occurs when local residents and businesses purchase locally produced products instead of importing goods and services.
  3. They improve economic equity since “their productivity and market size tends to lead them to offer higher wage levels” and “jobs at traded sector companies help anchor a region’s middle class employment base by providing stable, living wage jobs for residents.”

While the authors believe all 50 recommendations are needed, they believe the 10 most critical recommendations are:

  1. Create a network of 25 “Engineering and Manufacturing Institutes” performing applied R&D across a range of advanced technologies.
  2. Support the designation of at least 20 U.S. “manufacturing universities.”
  3. Increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
  4. Increase R&D tax credit generosity and make the R&D tax credit permanent.
  5. Institute an investment tax credit on purchases of new capital equipment and software.
  6. Develop a national trade strategy and increase funding for U.S. trade policymaking and enforcement agencies.
  7. Fully fund a nationwide manufacturing skills standards initiative.
  8. Expand high-skill immigration, particularly which focuses on the traded sector.
  9. Transform Fannie Mae into an industrial bank.
  10. Require the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to incorporate a “competitiveness screen” in its review of federal regulations.

Only two of their top 10 recommendations made the list of the most critical recommendations in the second edition of my book:  # 4 and # 10. However, I support all of their other top 10 recommendations, as well as many of their other 40 recommendations, especially the following:

  • Lower the effective U. S. corporate tax rate – As of April 1, 2012 (when Japan lowered its corporate tax rate), the United States took the mantle of having the highest statutory corporate tax rate at almost 39 percent (when state and federal rates are combined) of any OECD nation.
  • Combat foreign currency manipulation
  • Better support and align trade promotion programs to boost U. S. exports.
  • Better promote reshoring.

I also support their recommendation that Congress should broaden the R&D tax credit’s scope to make it clear that process R&D (R&D to develop better ways of making things) qualifies for the tax incentive and that Congress should expand the R&D credit to allow expenditures on employee training to count as qualified expenditures.

With regard to trade enforcement, they recommend that the U. S. “exclude mercantilist countries from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)” because “the top 20 GSP-beneficiary countries — Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela—are on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List (which documents countries that fail to adequately protect U.S. companies’ or individuals’ intellectual property rights).”

I believe that enacting legislation to address foreign currency manipulation by China in particular should be in their top 10 recommendations. I also recommend that we enact legislation to establish either a Natural Strategic Tariff as recommended by economist Ian Fletcher in his book Free Trade Doesn’t Work:  What Should Replace It and Why, or a Balanced Trade Restoration Act to authorize sale of Import Certificates using either the Warren Buffet plan or the Richmans plan (as explained in their book Trading Away our Future).

I completely disagree with their recommendation to “Forge new trade agreements, including a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Partnership.” As documented by Alan Uke in his book, Buying Back America, the U. S. has a trade deficit with nearly every single one of the countries with which it has a trade agreement. In fact, the U. S. has a trade deficit with 66 countries, the most egregious being the $278 billion deficit with China. Remember the touted benefits of NAFTA with Canada and Mexico? Well, in 2010, we had a trade deficit with Canada of $28 billion and $66 billion with Mexico. Do we want to increase our current trade deficit by adding more trading partners?

Additionally, the report articulates four key themes that the authors believe should be viewed as essential components of a U.S. traded sector competitiveness strategy. They recommend that the following key themes must be embraced by U.S. policymakers if the United States is to restore its traded sector competitiveness (summarized):

  1. The federal government must place strategic focus on its traded sectors, because it simply can’t rely entirely on its non-traded sectors to sustainably power the U.S. economy.
  2. The United States needs become much more of an engineering economy because gains from engineering-based innovation are capturable and appropriable within nations.
  3. The United States must move toward an economic system more focused on production than consumption, giving short-term consumption less priority in our politics.
  4. The structure of the global trading system must be seriously restructured to ensure that it is a trading system based on market-oriented principles and not the “innovation mercantilism” that has risen in the last decade, which fundamentally hurts the U.S. competitive position while violating the spirit and often the letter of the World Trade Organization.

Beyond federal policies to support traded sector competitiveness as a nation, the report also includes a section on recommended policies that states should implement to bolster their competitiveness, and in turn, the competitiveness of the broader U.S. economy. The state policy recommendations utilize the same “4Ts” framework as the federal recommendations.

Ezell and Atkinson state, “Implementing the policies recommended in this report will make the United States a more attractive investment environment for traded sector enterprises and their establishments. The technology policies will help spur innovation in advanced manufacturing, upgrade the technology capacity of manufacturing and other traded sector firms, help restore America’s industrial commons, and support the productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of traded sector SMEs. The tax policies will stimulate a favorable climate for private sector investment by making the overall U.S. corporate tax code more competitive with that of other nations and also by leveraging tax policy to incent private sector R&D and investment.”

In conclusion, they urge that U.S. policymakers understand that “manufacturing is not some low-value-added industry to be cavalierly abandoned.” Manufacturing is vital to U.S. competitiveness. I highly recommend reading all of this comprehensive, well-researched, well-documented report to be able to evaluate all of their recommendations and benefit from the details that are the basis for each recommendation.

U.S.-China Trade Deficit Cost More than 2.1 Million Manufacturing Jobs

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

On August 23rd, the Economic Policy Institute released a briefing paper, “The China Toll ? Growing U.S. trade deficit with China cost more than 2.7 million jobs between 2001 and 2011, with job losses in every state, written by Robert Scott.

“Between 2001 and 2011, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, over 2.1 million of which (76.9 percent) were in manufacturing. These lost manufacturing jobs account for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between 2001 and 2011.”  The growing trade deficit with China has been a prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment. When you take into account the multiplier effect of manufacturing jobs creating 3-4 other jobs, this explains why we have had a virtually jobless recovery since the end of the recession and why the unemployment rate has stayed so high for so long.

The growing trade deficit between China and the United States since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 has had a disastrous effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy. It has cost jobs in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“A major cause of the rapidly growing U.S. trade deficit with China is currency manipulation. Unlike other currencies, the Chinese yuan does not fluctuate freely against the dollar. Instead, China has tightly pegged its currency to the U.S. dollar at a rate that encourages a large bilateral trade surplus with the United States.”

China’s currency should have increased in value as its productivity increased, which would have created balanced trade. But, the yuan has remained artificially low as China acquired dollars and other foreign exchange reserves to further depress the value of its own currency. The paper explains “To depress the value of its own currency, a government can sell its own currency and buy government securities such as U.S. Treasury bills, which increases its foreign reserves.”

As a result of pressure for action on China’s currency manipulation, the Ryan-Murphy Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 2378) was approved by the House of Representatives on September 29, 2010, in the 111th Congress, but it did not pass the Senate. Last year, the Senate passed a similar bill, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011 (S. 1619), authored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), but a similar measure introduced in the House by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan) with strong bi-partisan support from 234 cosponsors is being held up by the House leadership. “These bills would revise the Tariff Act of 1930 to include a “countervailable subsidy” that would allow tariffs to be imposed on some imports from countries with a ‘fundamentally undervalued currency’.”

Scott identifies several other Chinese government policies that also illegally encourage exports:

  • Extensive suppression of labor rights, lowering manufacturing wages of Chinese workers by 47 percent to 86 percent
  • Massive direct export subsidies provided to many key industries
  • Maintaining strict, non-tariff barriers to imports

The EPI paper states, “As a result, China’s $398.5 billion of exports to the United States in 2011 were more than four times greater than U.S. exports to China, which totaled only $96.9 billion…making the China trade relationship the United States’ most imbalanced by far.”

Scott believes that another crucial missing link is foreign direct investment (FDI) and outsourcing, about which I have written extensively in my own book and articles. He writes, “FDI has played a key role in the growth of China’s manufacturing sector. China is the largest recipient of FDI of all developing countries…Foreign-invested enterprises (both joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries) were responsible for 52.4 percent of China’s exports and 84.1 percent of its trade surplus in 2011…Outsourcing—through foreign direct investment in factories that make goods for export to the United States—has played a key role in the shift of manufacturing production and jobs from the United States to China since it entered the WTO in 2001. Foreign invested enterprises were responsible for the vast majority of China’s global trade surplus in 2011.” This includes investments by American corporations in their plants in China.

Another factor that has contributed to the trade deficit is that the expectations of a growing Chinese market for U.S. goods failed to occur. The U. S. was supposed to benefit from increased exports to a large and growing consumer market in China. Instead, “the most rapidly growing exports to China are bulk commodities such as grains, scrap, and chemicals; intermediate products such as semiconductors; and producer durables such as aircraft and non-electrical machinery…”

The paper provides a detailed analysis of trade and job loss by industry to show “the employment impacts of the growing U.S. trade deficit with China using an inputoutput model that estimates the direct and indirect labor requirements of producing output in a given domestic industry. The model includes 195 U.S. industries, 77 of which are in the manufacturing sector…”

The rapidly growing imports of computer and electronic accounted for 54.9 percent of the $217.5 billion increase in the U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2011. “…the trade deficit in the computer and electronic products industry grew the most, and 1,064,800 jobs were displaced, 38.8 percent of the 2001–2011 total.” As a result, the hardest-hit congressional districts were in California, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota, where jobs in that industry are concentrated. Some districts in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama were also especially hard hit by job displacement in a variety of manufacturing industries, including computers and electronic products, textiles and apparel, and furniture.

The three hardest-hit congressional districts were all located in Silicon Valley in California, and of the top 20 hardest-hit districts, seven were in California, four were in Texas, two in North Carolina, two in Massachusetts, and one each in Oregon, Georgia, Colorado, Minnesota, and Alabama.

According to Scott, “The composition of imports from China is changing in fundamental ways, with serious implications for certain kinds of high-skill, high-wage jobs once thought to be the hallmark of the U.S. economy. China is moving rapidly “upscale,” from low-tech, low-skilled, labor-intensive industries such as apparel, footwear, and basic electronics to more capital- and skills-intensive sectors such as computers, electrical machinery, and motor vehicle parts. It has also developed a rapidly growing trade surplus in high-technology products.”

This growth of trade in advanced technology products (ATP) is of serious concern because it includes the more advanced elements of the computer and electronic products industry, as well as other sectors such as biotechnology, life sciences, aerospace, nuclear technology, and flexible manufacturing. It also includes some auto parts ? China has surpassed Germany as one of the top suppliers of auto parts to the United States.

“In 2011, the United States had a $109.4 billion trade deficit with China in ATP, reflecting a nine-fold increase from $11.8 billion in 2002. This ATP deficit was responsible for 36.3 percent of the total U.S.-China trade deficit in 2011. It dwarfs the $9.7 billion surplus in ATP that the United States had with the rest of the world in 2011…”

This increase in ATP is mainly the result of foreign direct investment and outsourcing by   U. S. corporations that have set up manufacturing in China or are using Chinese manufacturers as vendors so that products they make in China are imported for sale domestically that these corporations previously made in the U. S.

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has displaced millions of jobs in the United States and contributed heavily to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment. At the same time, “the United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.”

Scott writes, “The bottom line of the influences discussed above is this:  As a result of China’s currency manipulation and other trade-distorting practices (including extensive subsidies, legal and illegal barriers to imports, dumping, and suppression of wages and labor rights), the increase in foreign direct investment in China and related growth of its manufacturing sector, and the absence of a growing market for U.S. consumer goods in China, the U.S. trade deficit with China rose from $84.1 billion in 2001 to $301.6 billion in 2011, an increase of $217.5 billion…” ? a 72 percent increase!

He concludes, “Unless China raises the real value of the yuan by at least a third and eliminates these other trade distortions, the U.S. trade deficit and related job losses will continue to grow rapidly…The U.S.-China trade relationship needs a fundamental change. Addressing the exchange rate policies and labor standards issues in the Chinese economy is an important first step. It is time for the administration to respond to the growing chorus of calls from economists, workers, businesses, and Congress and take action to stop illegal currency manipulation by China and other countries.” If elected representatives will not serve the interests of the American people, then they need to be replaced by ones who will in the next election!