Archive for the ‘Outsourcing’ Category

Trade Deficit Would Shrink with Stroke of a Pen

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the U. S. has generated the highest trade deficit in the world and the largest in the world’s recorded history. If you add the annual trade deficit in goods as shown on the Census Bureau website, the total is a staggering figure of -$10.347 trillion.

The United States now has a trade deficit with 88 countries according to data in the book, Buying Back America. Some deficits are small, but some are enormous. Our top six trading partners of Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and South Korea represent 64% of our total trade deficit. In 2013, our total trade deficit in goods was $688.4 billion, of which China represented 46% at $318.4 billion. However, our 20-year total trade deficit with China since 1994 is a staggering -$3.287 trillion.

Now, the current Administration wants to cover up the evidence of the damage to our economy by changing the rules of how a manufacturer is defined instead of responding to the American public’s demand to know where products are manufactured so they can have the freedom to choose whether or not to buy “Made in USA” products.

On June 24, 2014, Robert E. Scott, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research for the Economic Policy Institute, conducted a webinar for the Coalition for a Prosperous America: “The Factoryless Goods Production Controversy (Foreign Goods Production) – How proposed government rule changes would classify foreign goods as U.S.-made.”

He explained that an Economic Policy Classification Committee (ECPC) formed by the Office of Management and Budget is proposing a Factoryless Goods Production (FGP) and Global Value Chain (GVC) rule to artificially inflate manufacturing production and reduce the trade deficit. This change would result in shrinking our trade deficit and growing our manufacturing output with the stroke of a pen, without adding any more real jobs or production.

The ECPC was formed to make recommendations for revising the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), created in 1997 as a unified Industrial classification system for the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Traditionally, all production chain tasks were performed in one factory, in multiple factories of one firm, or by subcontract suppliers to that firm, as is the case for companies like Northrop Grumman that makes Unmanned Aircraft Systems in San Diego.

In the last 20 years, improvements in communications, technology and transportation, as well as global trade agreements and foreign investment in plants haveallowed product design, development, and manufacturing to be performed in different locations, including offshore in China and other Asian countries.

This has enabled a company to control production without directly performing any manufacturing process or transformation task in one of their facilities; e.g. Apple, Nike, AMD, and fabless semiconductor manufacturing. In fact, the top five semiconductor firms in 2013 were fabless companies: Qualcomm, Broadcom, AMD, Mediatek, and Nvidia. These companies focus on innovation, product development, marketing, and sales rather than manufacturing tasks.

There are currently three types of establishment classifications:

Type of Establishment Characteristics  
Integrated Manufacturer (IM)  Performs all the tasks of the production chain
Manufacturing Service Provider (MSP) Performs transformation tasks but does not perform production management tasks (may purchase inputs) 
Factoryless Goods Producer (FGP) Does not perform transformation tasks but performs all production management tasks (may or may not own parts)

These current classifications require the statisticians to choose where to put the FGPs and how to count production. They now have the choice of classifying them as wholesalers, manufacturers, or split based on the location of the transforming company.

Currently, Apple and Nike are classified as wholesalers since they do not perform any manufacturing transformation tasks in the U.S. This accurately reflects the fact that both Apple and Nike have offshored their manufacturing to China.

Under current policy, when a company like Apple ships component parts to China to be assembled in a Chinese factory (e.g. Foxconn) and then sends the product back to the U.S. to be sold here, the value of the imported iPhone minus the value of the exported parts counts as a net U.S. import of manufactured goods.

Under the ECPC proposal, Foxconn, now called a “manufacturing services provider,” would not be described as having manufactured the iPhones but as having provided services to Apple.

An additional concern is that the ECPC proposes to treat some goods exported by foreign factories as U.S. manufactured exports. For example, currently, when Apple ships iPhone parts to China to be assembled by Foxconn and then ships the finished product to another county, Apple’s export of these parts to China counts as the only U.S. export.

But, the ECPC proposed rule would classify the engineering, marketing and profit to Apple as U.S. production. A fully assembled iPhone sale to another country, such as Japan or a European Union country, would count as a “U.S. manufactured goods export,” less the cost of any imported parts.

The justification for this is that while China manufactured and exported the iPhones, they count as U.S. manufactured exports because they were under the control of a U.S. brand. This would create an artificial increase in U.S. manufactured exports and cover up the real U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.

Thus, if a U.S. based company offshores manufacturing work, much of it would be classified as U.S. production. Further, imported products from foreign contract manufacturers hired by a U.S. company will no longer be a “goods import” but rather a “manufacturing services import.” This means that products from Flextronics in Mexico, which makes components in Mexico for U.S. firms that are shipped to the U.S., would no longer be considered a “goods import” but a “services import.”

In addition, the ECPC proposal would result in a miraculous overnight increase in the number of U.S. “manufacturing” jobs. White-collar employees in firms like Apple would be re-branded as “factoryless goods producers” and counted as “manufacturing” workers. The change would also create a false increase in manufacturing wages, as many of the new-to-be-counted “manufacturing” jobs would be designers, programmers and brand managers at “factoryless goods producers” like Apple. As a result, reported manufacturing output would jump, as revenues from firms like Apple would be lumped in with the output of actual U.S. manufacturers.

This proposal would deceptively shrink the size of the reported U.S. manufacturing trade deficit while artificially inflating the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs. It would obscure the erosion of U.S. manufacturing, undermining efforts to improve the trade and economic policies for our country.

This proposal is fraudulent and would distort U.S. trade, labor, and gross domestic product statistics that show the need for a developing a manufacturing strategy in the U.S. The offshoring of U.S. manufacturing under years of bad trade policies should not be undone with a data trick.

The proposal from the Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) to redefine U.S. manufacturing and trade statistics must be stopped. Only manufacturing performed within the U.S. should be considered U.S. goods production. If manufacturing occurs in another country, it simply is not U.S. production.

On May 22, 2014 the Office of Management & Budget solicited comments on these proposed revisions. You also can view the notice for this proposal in the Federal Register. The comment period ends July 21, 2014. You may email your comments today to to keep the “factoryless goods” proposal from becoming a reality. Or, to make taking action even easier, you can click here to customize and submit a pre-drafted comment provided by the Coalition for a Prosperous America.

Has NAFTA Benefited Americans?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

By this question, I mean the American people, not America, our country, nor American corporations. There can be diplomatic benefits to trade agreements, such as strengthening our relationships with countries that are allies in the world’s political arena. There can be benefits to American-based global corporations to open doors to new markets in specific countries. These are two of the reasons touted by “free trade” proponents as benefits to negotiating trade agreements.

To discern the answer to the title’s question, let us examine whether the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has benefited Americans as a whole. NAFTA was negotiated under President Bill Clinton and went into effect in January 1994. The agreement was supposed to reduce market barriers to trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico to reduce the cost of goods, increase our surplus trade balance with Mexico, reduce our trade deficit with Canada, and create 170,000 jobs a year. Twenty years later, the fallacy of these supposed benefits is well documented.

According to the report “NAFTA at 20” released this month by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, “More than 845,000 specific U.S. workers have been certified for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) as having lost their jobs due to imports from Canada and Mexico or the relocation of factories to those countries.”

Major corporations such as General Electric, Caterpillar, and Chrysler announced they would add jobs for increased sales to Mexico; instead they eliminated jobs. For example, General Electric testified before Congress saying, “We are looking at another $7.5 billion in potential sales over the next 10 years. These sales could support 10,000 jobs for General Electric and its suppliers. In reality, “General Electric has eliminated 4,936 U.S. jobs since NAFTA due to rising imports from Canada and Mexico or decisions to offshore production to those countries.”

The report also documents the fact that “the small pre-NAFTA U.S. trade surplus with Mexico turned into a massive new trade deficit and the pre-NAFTA U.S. trade deficit with Canada expanded greatly.” According to Census Bureau data, in 1993, the non-inflation adjusted U.S. trade surplus with Mexico was $1.6 billion, and in 2013, the U. S. trade deficit had grown to $50.1 billion. The non-inflation adjust U. S. deficit with Canada grew from $4.4 billion in 1994 to $7.4 billion in 2013. Together the Mexico and Canada inflation-adjusted trade deficits “have morphed into a combined NAFTA trade deficit of $181 billion.”

Most people do not understand how trade deficits hurt them. They do not realize that when our country imports more goods than it exports, we go in debt as a country to pay for these goods. We then have to borrow money or increase taxes to have enough money to run our government. This is why we now have a nearly $17 trillion national debt. As individuals, we would soon go bankrupt if we did not earn enough money to pay our bills and had to keep borrowing money, but the government can just keep printing money. The problem with printing more money is that the value of the dollar keeps going down, so each of us has to work harder to make more money to try to keep our pay equal to what we earned previously.

According to the Coalition for a Prosperous America, trade deficits also diminish the U. S. Gross Domestic Product since GDP equals the sum of Consumption, Investment, Government Procurement, and Net Exports (Exports – Imports). Our trade deficit in 2011 alone shaved an astounding 4% from overall U. S. GDP.

Our efforts to keep our earnings of equal value have not succeeded because the report states, “NAFTA has contributed to downward pressure on U.S. wages and growing income inequality.” What this means is that as Americans lost their higher paying manufacturing jobs, they had to compete with the glut of other Americans for the non-offshorable, lower paying, low-skill jobs, in retail, hospitality, and food service. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, two out of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 experienced a wage reduction, most of them taking a pay cut of greater than 20 percent.” The result is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor and a shrinking middle class.

Manufacturing jobs are the foundation of the middle class; these jobs raised the average daily wage between 1900 and 2000 from $2.50 a day to $96.00 a day. If we lose the majority of our manufacturing industry, we will lose our middle class.

We were supposed to realize the benefits of lower prices as consumers, but in contrast, the report states, “Despite a 188 percent rise in food imports from Canada and Mexico under NAFTA, the average nominal price of food in the United States has jumped 65 percent since the deal went into effect.”

As a result, our “average annual U.S. agricultural trade deficit with Mexico and Canada under NAFTA stands at $800 million, more than twice the pre-NAFTA level.” American ranchers and cattlemen have been hurt by the 130 percent increase of beef imports from Mexico and Canada since NAFTA took effect, “and today U.S. consumption of “NAFTA” beef tops $1.3 billion annually.” U.S. food processors moved to Mexico to take advantage of low wages, resulting in a loss of jobs for Americans at U. S. food processing plants.

The report was a revelation to me about an unintended consequence of NAFTA ? the dramatic increase of illegal immigrants to the U. S. in the past 20 years. According to the report, the increased export of subsidized U. S. corn to Mexico resulted in the destruction of “…the livelihoods of more than one million Mexican campesino farmers and about 1.4 million additional Mexican workers whose livelihoods depended on agriculture.”

The report quotes an exposé, “Trade Secrets,” by John Judis in the April 9, 2008 issue of New Republic, which stated. “Wages dropped so precipitously that today the income of a farm laborer is one-third that of what it was before NAFTA. As jobs disappeared and wages sank, many of these rural Mexicans emigrated, swelling the ranks of the 12 million illegal immigrants living incognito and competing for low-wage jobs in the United States.”

As a result, “The desperate migration of those displaced from Mexico’s rural economy pushed down wages in Mexico’s border maquiladora factory zone and contributed to a doubling of Mexican immigration to the United States following NAFTA’s implementation.”

Prior to NAFTA, jobs at maquiladora factories were responsible for a growing middle class in cities such as Tijuana and Tecate in Baja California, Mexico. The report states that “Real wages in Mexico have fallen significantly below pre-NAFTA levels as price increases for basic consumer goods have exceeded wage increases. A minimum wage earner in Mexico today can buy 38 percent fewer consumer goods as on the day that NAFTA took effect.”

The lower wages at Mexican maquiladoras since NAFTA explains why Mexico is now benefitting from “nearsourcing,” which is returning manufacturing from China where wages have risen 15-20% year over year for the past five years. Taking into consideration the other costs and hidden costs of doing business offshore that comprise a Total Cost of Ownership analysis; Mexico is now more competitive than the coastal areas of China’s manufacturing industry.

Of course, the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico is another factor in the downward pressure on wages in the United States. Today, only 1.9 million hourly workers make $20 per hour, which is a marker for jobs that provide a middle-class standard of living, down 60% since 1979, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In conclusion, we can clearly see from the well-documented evidence that NAFTA has not benefited the American people. It may have benefited American corporations that expanded their sales in Mexico or moved manufacturing to Mexico to increase their profits. However, I am sure that none of the American company owners of the more than 60,000 manufacturing firms that have closed since 1994 or the nearly one million American workers who lost their jobs because of NAFTA would say they benefited from this trade agreement.

The last thing we need is another free trade agreement such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that has been negotiated behind closed doors by the Obama Administration for the past three years. We can’t afford the loss of more American jobs. What we need are trade policies that will help American manufacturers and address the predatory mercantilist policies of China, Japan, Korea, and other countries with regard to government subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, and intellectual property theft. We need to have balanced trade as recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) in their issue paper, “21st Century Trade Agreement Principles.” As chair of the newly formed California chapter of CPA, I would welcome your support and involvement to rebuild American manufacturing, create more higher-paying manufacturing jobs, and reduce our trade deficit and national debt.

Coalition for a Prosperous America’s California Chapter Celebrates the Outlook for the Future

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The California Chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) held their annual dinner in San Diego on January 11th at the Del Mar Hilton to look back on this year’s work and ahead to the coming year, as well as honor those who have helped make that work successful. Nearly 80 attendees joined me in showing our appreciation to Senator Mark Wyland for being the co-host of the well-attended “Manufacturing in the Golden State–Making California Thrive” economic summit last February. Unfortunately, co-host Assemblymember Toni Atkins was unable to be present. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and County Supervisor Dave Roberts attended along with staff representing Congresswoman Susan Davis, Congressman Darrell Issa, Assemblyman Brian Jones, and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez.

I shared how I became involved with CPA, which is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization established in 2007 as a coalition of manufacturing, farming, ranching, and labor to fix the U.S. trade deficit and the economy. CPA uniquely joins these distinct groups and focuses on both grass roots and Washington, D. C. lobbying efforts. CPA educates business, organization and political leaders about the economic harm caused by the trade deficit, methods to correct the deficit, and the need to develop and implement a national strategy to produce more in the U.S. so jobs and the taxes they create stay in the U. S.

When I was researching and writing the chapter “What is being done now to save American manufacturing?” for the first edition of my book in 2008, I found many trade and professional organizations that were focused on a particular issue important to their industry or profession, but there didn’t seem to be any collaboration between the organizations to support or oppose issues that affected American manufacturers. The two most powerful organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U. S. Chamber of Congress seemed to be controlled by the large multinational corporations whose position on various issues were at odds with those of smaller American-only manufacturing corporations.

After my book was published in 2009, I met Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work:  What should replace it and why, and he introduced me to CPA when he became their Sr. Economist in early 2011. I realized this was just the kind of organization I had been looking for and started participating in their member-at-large monthly conference calls to share what we were each doing to work on issues adversely affecting American manufacturing.

I volunteered to help CPA put on a Smart Trade Conference on March 28, 2012, and one of the people that attended was Donna Cleary, Field Rep for State Senator Mark Wyland. She asked CPA to facilitate putting on a manufacturing summit in the fall. Because of the national election, we postponed the summit to February 2013, which gave us more time to solicit partners and sponsors. Our partner list became the “who’s who” of organizations in San Diego, and the summit was very successful. In addition to being a bi-partisan event, what made it different was that we broke into small groups after the main presentations and conducted “pair wise” voting on issues to come up with the top two issues: California regulations and the need for a national manufacturing strategy.

We formed a Manufacturing Task Force and produced a report that we disseminated to all of the attendees and subsequently presented to our Congressional delegation. We also presented CPA position papers on the trade deficit, currency manipulation, County of Origin labeling, Border Adjustable Taxes, and “Fast Track” Authority for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (a trade and global governance agreement being negotiated by the U.S. with eleven Pacific Rim nations).

We sponsored a viewing of the film “Death by China” in September, which clearly shows that we are in a trade war with China that we are losing, and American companies aren’t competing against Chinese companies, but the Chinese government itself.

The next speaker was Mike Dolan, Legislative Representative for the Teamsters, who said, “If CPA didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.” His basic point was that, based on his long experience working on the Hill and in the field for Fair Trade (fighting expansion of the flawed and failed NAFTA/WTO model), we can win the current battles of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track if and only if we build and maintain a strong bipartisan mobilization. He called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.” He doesn’t see a path to victory next year on sensible trade policy without the Coalition for a Prosperous America and the constituencies it represents — small business, particularly in industries that are sensitive to trade fluctuations, family farmers and ranchers, working families and “trade patriot” activists including the Tea Party cadres.

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) was the next speaker. He said they joined the Coalition because their industry was being unfavorably impacted by current U. S. trade policies and unfair trade practices by our trading partners. He said, “The number of privately owned cattle and sheep ranches has been going down dramatically since 1994 when NAFTA went into effect and accelerated after China became part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000. The size of the beef and sheep herd has been decreasing every year, while imports of beef, lamb, and mutton have been increasing.” Shockingly, he revealed that fast food restaurants are not required to disclose the origins of their beef and even when restaurants say the beef is “U.S. Inspected,” it is as likely as not to be imported. Their industry especially needs the government to provide consumer package labeling to show where meat and livestock was born, raised and slaughtered and to reverse the current policy of lowering U.S. health and safety standards just to facilitate more imported meat.

CPA President Michael Stumo presentation was “A Prosperity Strategy for America,” in which he stated:  “We are convincing Congress that we need “net exports,” not merely more exports, to be a successful trading and producing nation. In 2011, our trade deficit shaved an astounding 4% from overall U. S. GDP. We should have a national goal to grow manufacturing back up to 20% of GDP rather than 11%.

Supply chains are the lifeblood of our economy, and all tiers of suppliers to the OEMs are important. They produce the jobs, the job multipliers, the wealth, the innovation, and the intellectual property of a successful developed economy. Those in Washington who are pushing “global supply chains” are really pushing offshoring of our supply chain. We need a strategy of acquiring, keeping, and growing “domestic supply chains” for a strong America.

We need to stop offshoring our manufacturing jobs and the taxes they create to safeguard our economic strength, our democracy and our constitutional republic. The globalization agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are only 15% about tariffs and quotas and 85% about non-trade topics. These other topics include financial regulation, taxes, food and product safety, product labeling, government procurement of domestic supplies, and other matters. These globalization deals transfer the authority of Congress and states over these domestic policy issues to unelected international tribunals of foreign trade lawyers.

The old way of manufacturing and labor working separately for their interests no longer works. These issues are a macro problem for our country and affect all Americans. That’s why manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and workers must work together.

It is working. A large part of Congress signed a letter opposing Fast Track trade authority because of sovereignty and economic issues. Leadership on important committees is talking about net exports rather gross exports. A majority of the House and Senate signed a letter calling for effective protections against foreign currency manipulation in future international agreements. We need to win. Vince Lombardi said ‘winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing.’ We can win these issues by expanding our membership of individuals, companies, and organizations and expanding from eight state chapters to at least 25 chapters.”

In the wrap-up presentation, Dave Frengel, Director of Government Relations, Penn United Technologies, a precision tool making company, said, “We have 600 employees today, but if our government had been standing up for us against China’s unfair trade practices, we would have 1200 employees, most in family-sustaining jobs with good benefits. Unfair trade affects the entire U.S. supply-chain, not just our company. Our government has been turning its back on production of food and manufactured goods. Our precision tooling and manufacturing industry, which is critical to America’s industrial economy, is a third of what it was before this era of bad U.S. trade policy began. The resulting loss of jobs is huge.”

He continued, “When I was asked by my boss to “fix trade” 11 years ago, we tried working within the National Association of Manufacturers, but our voice and that of other American-only manufactures was ignored. We realized that we needed to join not only with manufacturers and concerned citizens, but with farmers, ranchers and workers to win. We realized that the mission would not be accomplished through existing organizations – we needed a new organization to get the job done. That is why we were a founding member of CPA.

For nearly seven years now, CPA has been holding events all over the nation to raise awareness and mobilize local leaders around trade reform issues. CPA members and staff made over 200 legislative visits this past year. The credibility and influence of CPA is growing and our trade reform message is becoming more convincing as we continue to have crucial conversations with a growing circle of trade policy leaders in Washington, D. C.

We are opening new doors with trade negotiators inside the Obama Administration, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. Our efforts helped gain massive Congressional opposition to Fast Track trade authority and in support of our constitution. Our efforts helped gain a majority of Senate and House support for effective currency manipulation provisions in all future trade deals.

The Chinese will negotiate forever without changing their predatory trade strategies. We need protection from those who cheat us, which requires strong enforcement of international trade rules by our government. We can compete against foreign companies, but not against foreign governments that rig markets to cheat us out of our share of markets. The Coalition for a Prosperous America works for trade reform that delivers prosperity and security to America, its citizens, factories, farms, and working people. The solutions that CPA focuses on will benefit those who make and grow things here.”

In conclusion, he stated, “We are gaining more GOP support, more Democrat support, more Tea Party support, more citizen support, and more producer support. This year, we’re starting to win – because of the growth in size and influence of the Coalition for a Prosperous America. We need to get stronger. We need you to consider joining CPA as an individual or a company member or to make a tax deductible donation to the CPA Education Fund.”

Bad U. S. trade policy is a major cause of California’s economic crisis. Offshoring has cost California hundreds of thousands of its manufacturing jobs. Family members lost good jobs; communities declined; property values plummeted. We Californians know that we need a smarter U.S. trade strategy.

As a fledgling chapter, we are already influencing the trade policy positions of San Diego’s Congressional delegation, but need to grow to influence the other 48 Representatives and our two Senators to support better trade deals that will grow our economy. This is not a Republican issue nor a Democratic issue, but an American issue, and they must vote right to properly represent California. We need to get stronger and grow to accomplish our goals. We need your involvement and financial support to make a difference. Please contact me at to participate in the California Chapter.

Why it is Important to Know Where Products are Manufactured

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

At a time when more consumers are paying attention to where products are made and expressing greater interest in buying “Made in USA” products even if they cost more, there are changes proposed that could impact consumers being able to make decisions on the products they buy.

The first reason we need to know where products are manufactured is to have a clear picture of whether the nearly six million manufacturing jobs we have lost since 2000 have been mainly the result of technologic advances and higher productivity in the U. S. or whether outsourcing to foreign countries like China has been the main cause.

For decades, there have been companies referred to as manufacturers that I called “virtual manufacturers.” in my book. These companies have no manufacturing capability in-house. Sometimes they don’t even have the personnel to design the product. The founders of the company may have a concept of the new product they wish to develop and market, but they don’t have the technical expertise to do the design and development themselves. They hire outside consultants to design and develop the product or subcontract the design, development, and prototyping to a company specializing in these services. At the extreme end, they subcontract out everything from start to finish, including engineering design, procurement of parts and materials, assembly, test, inspection, and shipping to the end customer. They may handle marketing and customer service themselves, but sometimes they even subcontract these functions to marketing and customer service firms. There was no real impact on U. S. manufacturing data as long as these U. S. companies outsourced their manufacturing to other domestic manufacturers.

However, in the past 20 years, these virtual manufacturers have increasingly outsourced most or all of their manufacturing offshore. This resulted in U. S. federal agencies involved in economic data labeling them as “factoryless goods producers” and classifying them as “wholesale traders,” if they didn’t do any domestic manufacturing themselves. Apple, Nike, and Cisco are some of the more well known “factoryless goods producers” because of having their manufacturing outsourced offshore.

Now, U.S. federal agencies involved in economic data want to change the way they classify companies that have outsourced their U.S. production to foreign manufacturing companies. They are proposing to reclassify these “wholesale traders” as “domestic manufacturers.” This means that their sales would be counted as U.S. production and their products that are made offshore and imported into the U. S. for sale would no longer be counted as imports.

As reported in the August 20th issue of Manufacturing & Technology News, the purpose of this change is supposedly “to determine how much products are been offshored and to pinpoint the number of American companies that are linked to manufacturing, even though they don’t make the products they design and sell.”

For the past decade, “U.S. statistical agencies found that the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) did not provide a clear definition of companies that outsourced their production overseas, but that still owned the design and controlled the production and sale of goods from that foreign production.” A Manufacturing Transformation Outsourcing Subcommittee was formed in 2008 by the Economic Classification Policy Committee “to define outsourcing and identify “characteristics of establishments that outsource manufacturing transformation activities.” The committee was made up of representatives from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“The committee decided that all factoryless goods producers should be classified in manufacturing, the specific industry classification based on the transformation production process used by the contractor”  and recommended that the classification changes be implemented in the 2017 North America Industry Classification System.

There is disagreement on whether this change would be beneficial as it would impact a dozen major government statistical series, such as industrial production, producer price indexes, and industrial productivity.

In my opinion this change would result in data that is misleading and wouldn’t be giving a true picture of American manufacturing. We would not be able to know how much is actually being produced in the United States if we count imports from offshore as if they are domestic production. This change could radically increase U.S. production statistics and reduce our import statistics making our trade balance artificially look better.

A better way to find the answer to this question has been provided by San Diego entrepreneur and businessman, Alan Uke in his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity. Mr. Uke writes, “Our future as a nation and as individuals is being threatened. Since our spending habits as consumers have contributed to this situation, we can change our spending habits to reverse it… in order for a change to happen, consumers must demand to be more honestly and completely informed about what they are buying and where their money goes. To this end, we are starting a consumer movement to bring this to the attention of Congress…The goal of this movement and of this book are to encourage people to change their buying habits toward purchasing things that help the U. S. economy and job situation.”

He points out that the current information provided on country of origin labels is “misleading, incomplete, inaccessible, or all of these…In order to support our economy and American industries, we must have easily accessible, clearly communicated, and truthful information about a product’s entire origins.”

Mr. Uke recommends that consumers be provided the country of origin information they need at the point of sale whether at a store or online and presents a proposal for the U. S. government to require detailed country-of-origin labels for all manufactured products similar to the nutritional information labels now required on packaged food products. He feels that it is important for consumers to “see the last place where the product was manufactured” and “to discern what portion of its components came from other places” by use of what he calls a “Transparent Label.” It would include the cost by country of origin by both percentage and trade ratio, as well as the location of the company’s headquarters. The percentage is the total cost of the product that is produced or transformed in a particular country. The trade ratio describes the amount of exports vs. imports for a country in relation to the United States. This label would enable consumers to make better decisions when they buy manufactured goods.

The second reason we need to know where products are manufactured is to protect ourselves from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products. The U. S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s website provides a monthly list of products that have been recalled, and month after month, more than 90% are made in China.

A label similar to Mr. Uke’s recommendation would help companies comply with the new product safety standard (ISO 10377) recently released by the International Standards Organization (ISO):  The “Consumer Product Safety — Guidelines for Suppliers” standard (ISO 10377). The summary written by Dr. Elizabeth Nielsen, Chair of ISO/PC 243, Consumer product safety and a Canadian government Scientist, Regulator and Policy Analyst, states, “Regardless of company structure and organization, ISO 10377 will affect all suppliers irrespective of their role in the supply chain and all types of products whatever the origin.”

“Products should be traceable and carry a unique identifier that is labelled, marked or tagged at the source. This also goes for raw materials, components and subassemblies. Suppliers should insist on properly identified products from vendors and be able to trace products back to their direct source and identify the next direct recipient of the product in the supply chain.”

This standard has a different purpose for labeling than Mr. Uke’s label:  to protect consumers from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products. “Products are safer when they carry documentation about the product, its design, its production and its management in the market…Suppliers should be able to recognize a product’s development through its documentation and trace its design, risk assessment, hazard analysis and testing decisions back to its conception.”

ISO 10377 is “aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as larger firms and offers risk assessment and management techniques for safer consumer products. This standard will allow retailers and OEMs to trace every part and component of a product through the supply chain to determine exactly where a defect or a counterfeit has occurred.” The standard is divided into four main sections outlining general principles that promote a product safety culture in a company, safety in design, safety in production and safety in the retail marketplace.

Either Mr. Uke’s “Transparent Label” or the label required by ISO 10377 would satisfy both reasons for wanting to know where products are manufactured. This type of label would provide protection for consumers from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products and would help us to recognize the main cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States. We need to face up to the true cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs before we can get any consensus of what to do about it by means of our national policies. We need to oppose reclassifying “wholesale traders” as domestic manufacturers and support “country of origin” labeling by contacting our Congressional representatives.





“Death by China” Film Shows where all the Jobs Have Gone

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Are you wondering where all the good jobs have gone? Why do we have less tax revenues creating an out-of-control Federal budget deficit? Why are you working harder for less money than you did in the 1990s?

Death by China, based on the book by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry, shows how the world’s most populous nation and soon-to-be largest economy is rapidly turning into the planet’s most efficient assassin through its shoddy and even poisonous products and environmental pollution. China’s perverse form of capitalism combines illegal mercantilist and protectionist weapons to pick off American industries, job by job. Meanwhile, America’s executives, politicians, and even academia remain silent about the looming threat. To read my full review of the book, click here.

Director Peter Navarro is an internationally acclaimed expert on U.S.-China relations, a regular contributor on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and the Huffington Post, and a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine. Greg Autry is an entrepreneur, writer, and educator. He has published extensively on business, economics, trade policy, China and space. Greg serves as Senior Economist for the American Jobs Alliance and economist for the Coalition for a Prosperous America. Both Navarro and Autry have testified to the U.S. Congress on China issues.

To Navarro and Autry, the success of the film will be measured by the ability of the public to spur politicians to finally recognize that “the best jobs program for America is trade reform with China – not more empty fiscal and monetary stimulus.”

The film review on “rottentomatoes” states, “Death by China pointedly confronts the most urgent problem facing America today – its increasingly destructive economic trade relationship with a rapidly rising China. Since China began flooding U.S. markets with illegally subsidized products in 2001, over 50,000 American factories have disappeared, more than 25 million Americans can’t find a decent job, and America now owes more than 3 trillion dollars to the world’s largest totalitarian nation. Through compelling interviews with voices across the political spectrum, Death by China exposes that the U.S.-China relationship is broken and must be fixed if the world is going to be a place of peace and prosperity.

The New York Times review states, “The film, based on a book by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry and directed by Mr. Navarro, is blunt as can be in working the premise that the admission of China to the World Trade Organization in 2001 has been catastrophic for the American economy. The influx of Chinese goods has left American manufacturers unable to compete, the film says, and Chinese leaders have been brashly ignoring rules about things like currency manipulation to make sure that their country’s products remain artificially cheap.”

In this review article, Daniel M. Slane of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission said, “American companies cannot compete because they’re not competing with Chinese companies, they’re competing with the Chinese government.”

The New York Post review states, “Narrated by Martin Sheen, the film looks at what it calls America’s increasingly destructive trade relationship with China — we owe them $3 trillion — which goes back to the Asian nation’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. We hear claims that instead of helping both lands, as President Clinton promised at the time, the deal has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs and the influx here of shoddy, even deadly Chinese products. Death by China gives that nation a black eye for currency manipulation, intellectual-property theft, political persecution and serious environmental pollution.”

Paste Magazine’s review states, “With his Harvard pedigree and his acclaimed credentials, Navarro is an authority on the subject of the U.S.-China trade relationship. Death by China features him along with several geopolitical experts and activists spelling out exactly how and why this nation’s corporate-political nexus sold out the American worker and consumer to the tune of thousands of factories, millions of jobs and trillions in debt owed to the Chinese.

And who’re the losers in this scenario? Interviews with out-of-work factory workers, college graduates and with both Democratic and Republican legislators paint a picture of widespread blight as unemployment destroys communities and consumers find themselves without any choice but to buy Chinese-made goods.”

Navarro commented: “My goal in creating the film is to draw attention to the urgent need for trade reform with China, and to ensure that it becomes a top priority for legislators. We hope to give the highest possible visibility to an issue that is all too often ignored by politicians, journalists and consumers alike – the incredibly corrosive loss of America’s once formidable manufacturing base to a cheating China. The fact that our government has turned a blind eye to China’s deceitful policies has had an enormously negative impact on the American economy and the standard of living of millions of Americans.”

Francesca McCaffery of Blackbook Magazine said, “A truly life-changing, mouth-dropping documentary film…Peter Navarro’s ‘Death by China’ grabs you by the throat and never lets go…But watch this movie, and you will, in turn, start glowing with a newfound, hit-on-your-head awareness.”

The Hollywood Report review points out that “Narrator Martin Sheen warns upfront that it’s important to “distinguish clearly between the good and hard-working people of China, and their repressive Communist government victimizing American and Chinese citizens alike.”

Death by China made its theatrical debut in Los Angeles and New York in June of 2012 and played theatrically in over 50 cities across the U.S. including key manufacturing cities such as Akron, Chicago, Dayton, Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Youngstown and many more.

This was opposite of the typical course of documentary films being shown at festivals first and then in theaters. Navarro and Autry wanted to open the film in theaters throughout the swing states during the 2012 presidential election to draw attention to the issue China’s exploitation of our economy.

After the election, Death by China made a series of festival appearances through the end of June 2013. All total, the film was shown at more than 25 festivals – from Beaufort, South Carolina; Macon, Georgia; and New York City to Green Bay, Wisconsin; Sedona, Arizona; and San Luis Obispo, California.

As part of its festival activity, the film garnered three best documentary awards from festivals in Beverly Hills, Durango, and Studio City. “It was a Best Doc nominee at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival, was first runner up at the Myrtle Beach festival, and received a Golden Ace award from the Las Vegas Film Festival.”

Don’t miss the following opportunity to see this film. If you are not located in the region, please check the Death by China website for other screenings. If you or your organization would like to sponsor a screening, please contact Peter Navarro.  Of course, you can also order the DVD to watch on your own TV.

The Coalition for a Prosperous America presents:  A Screening of Death by China, A Documentary Film by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry

When: Wednesday, September 18th, 2013, Doors open 6:00 PM, event starts at

6:30 PM.

Where: AMN Healthcare, 12400 High Bluff Drive, San Diego, CA 92130 (exit Carmel Valley Road off Int. 5)

Cost: $10.00 (refreshments served)


Introduction: Michele Nash-Hoff, Chair, California chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America

Film: “Death by China”, directed by Peter Navarro and produced by Greg Autry, CPA Economist

Discussion/Q and A: Greg Autry, Producer, Death by China, Economist, Coalition for a Prosperous America

Following the film there will be a discussion and Q and A to talk about how the Coalition for a Prosperous America is working to build a smart trade policy that will counter China’s, and other nation’s, trade cheating and move manufacturing back to America.

Register today at the CPA site:

For more information, please contact Sara Haimowitz (,)

Reshoring is Answer to Corporations Cutting U. S. Jobs and Adding Jobs Offshore

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

As originally reported in a Wall Street Journal article in April 2011, U. S. Department of Commerce data shows that major U. S. corporations cut their work forces in the U. S. by 2.9 million jobs during the 2000s while increasing their employment overseas by 2.4 million.

This trend continues according to data revealed by Trade Assistance Adjustment (TAA) filings made to the U. D. Department of Labor in a recent article in Manufacturing & Technology News. TAA provides benefits and training to workers displaced by trade and sifting manufacturing offshore. The article lists 50 companies that laid off workers in the first three weeks of July, about 80% of which were manufacturing jobs. Other types of jobs displaced were customer service, technical support, information technology, data processing, and even engineering design. TPA assistance is like putting a bandage on after your arm was cut off.

While over 25 companies were shifting manufacturing offshore to China or India, it was surprising to see that Mexico was the next highest location to which manufacturing was being shifted. The reason for this is that new data produced by the Bank of America shows that labor rates in Mexico could be lower than China by as much as 20%, quite a change from 10 years ago when Mexican labor rates were 188 percent higher than China.

Other reasons for this switch to Mexico are lower transportation costs, faster delivery, higher productivity from automation, more reliable quality, and better payment terms than from China. As a resident of the border region of California and Mexico, I have seen this first hand. “Nearsourcing” to Mexico is occurring when reshoring to the U. S. is not economically justifiable at the present time.

Our major regional organization, CONNECT, has a Nearsourcing Initiative focused on matching San Diego companies in need of outsourcing with the region’s local manufacturers. “The program includes workshops that educate the region’s innovation entrepreneurs on the benefits of contracting with local manufacturers, including reduced time to market, increased innovation and reduced risk and costs; and a matchmaking program that helps San Diego innovation companies in need of outsourcing to Innovate Locally, Grow Globally – to connect and contract with qualified San Diego production resources.” Educational workshops and networking meetings have been held over the past two years, and manufacturers are encouraged to seek local vendors or even be matched with regional vendors by using the database of primary industries, developed by the East County Economic Development Council, and the CONNECT Resource Guide.

CONNECT’s SME (Small-Medium Enterprises) Operations Roundtable group has also taken the lead in educating San Diego’s regional manufacturers on how to use the Total Cost of Ownership EstimatorTM developed by Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative, by means of a presentation I gave with a local contract manufacturer in February as an authorized speaker on behalf of the Reshoring Initiative.

It is crucial for American companies that do not have offshore plants to be trained on how to do a true Total Cost of Ownership Analysis using the TCO Estimator as a counter to the continuing trend of offshoring manufacturing jobs by multinational corporations that have facilities all over the world. For multinational corporations, the U. S. market represents a smaller piece of a bigger whole in the global economy. While offshoring may no longer be a relentless search for the lowest wages, many corporations go to Brazil, to China, to India, and other countries because that is where their customers are located.

I believe that training people performing two particular job functions is one of the keys to facilitating more reshoring ? supply chain personnel and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). I have had the pleasure in the past year of speaking to three regional APICS’ chapters and a four-state regional conference last weekend. APICS is composed of supply chain/logistics people. I learned that in the 13th edition of APICS’ dictionary, the definition of Total Cost of Ownership is:  “In supply chain management, the total cost of ownership of the supply delivery system is the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream.” This is a good definition, not as complete as mine, but good. If supply chain personnel had utilized this definition in the past decade, a great deal of offshoring would never have occurred.

My question to conference attendees was what prevented the utilization of this good definition. One answer was:  We were not allowed to consider anything but the piece price and sometimes transportation costs in making the decision to select domestic vs. offshore vendors. Another answer was:  We were being mandated by upper management to outsource to China to save money. Others thought that their managers were doing what everyone else was doing; i.e., going to China to save money. In other words, they were following the “herd mentality” like buffalo were driven off a cliff by American Indians in our past history.

Another problem mentioned was that in the cost accounting systems used by most corporations,  transportation costs, travel costs to vendors, rework costs of defective parts, cost of inventory, etc. are in separate accounting categories and there wasn’t any software available to do a true Total Cost of Ownership analysis until Harry Moser developed his TCO estimator. This is why I believe that CFOs are critical in turning the tide towards reshoring vs. offshoring.


Yes, I believe that as wages continue to rise offshore, especially in China, transportation costs continue to increase, and risk factors such as political instability, intellectual property theft, and counterfeit parts take their toll, more and more companies will see the economic advantage and wisdom of reshoring.


However, we can accelerate reshoring if we can expand the reach of our education and training on understanding and using a true Total Cost of Ownership analysis to CFOs and other C level management. Harry Moser and I are no longer the only persons singing the “reshoring” tune. Consultants at the Manufacturing Extension Programs nationwide, such as California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) and Manex are being trained in how to use the Reshoring Initiative’s Total Cost of Ownership EstimatorTM. I have even met former “offshoring” consultants who are rebranding themselves to be reshoring consultants. I urge everyone to do what you can to promote reshoring if you want to help create jobs and save American manufacturing.


Is India a Better Place for Manufacturing than China?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

You would think that because India was formerly part of the British Empire and became an independent democracy, there would be less pollution and better working conditions than in China. Well, you would be wrong.

You wouldn’t find it any healthier to live in many of the industrial cities of India than the industrial cities in China. India is developing more slowly, but its growth is already taking a toll on the health of its people. India’s population has more than tripled since independence in 1947, from 350 million people to 1.2 billion, severely straining the country’s environment, infrastructure, and natural resources.

In my last article, I mentioned that four cities in India were listed in the Blacksmith Institute’s “Dirty 30” of the 2007 report, “The World’s Worst Polluted Places.” Consider Vapi, at the southern end of India’s “Golden Corridor,” a 400 km belt of industrial estates in the state of Gujarat. There are more than 50 industrial estates in the region, containing over 1,000 industries and extending over more than 1,000 acres. Many estates are chemical manufacturing centers, producing petrochemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, textiles, dyes, fertilizers, leather products, paint, and chlor-alkali. Waste products discharged from these industries contain heavy metals (copper, chromium, cadmium, zinc, nickel, lead, and iron), cyanides, pesticides, aromatic compounds like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and other toxins.

The Indian Medical Association reports that most local drinking water is contaminated because of the absence of a proper system for disposing of industrial waste. Industrial waste instead drains directly into the Damaganga and Kolak rivers. Vapi’s groundwater has levels of mercury 96 times higher than World Health Organization standards. Approximately 71,000 people have no choice but to drink contaminated well water, as clean water sources are more than a mile away. The water is so discolored by contaminants it looks like a bottle of orange soda. Local produce contains heavy metals up to 60 times the safe standard. There is a high incidence of respiratory diseases, chemical dermatitis, and skin, lung, and throat cancers. Women in the area report high incidences of spontaneous abortions, abnormal fetuses, and infertility. Children’s ailments include respiratory and skin diseases and retarded growth.

It isn’t any better in Sukinda, in the state of Orissa, where 97 percent of India’s chromite ore deposits are located. Twelve mines operate without any environmental management plans, and more than 30 million tons of waste rock is spread over the surrounding area and the banks of the Brahmani River. The mines discharge untreated water directly into the river. Approximately 70 percent of the surface water, and 60 percent of the drinking water, contains hexavalent chromium at more than double national and international standards. The polluted Brahmani River is the only water source for 2,600,000 people. Health problems include gastrointestinal bleeding, tuberculosis, asthma, infertility, birth defects, and stillbirths.

The Indian economy is growing rapidly, but pollution is quickly spiraling out of control and rivers are dying by the dozens. Fully 80 percent of urban waste, including industrial waste, winds up in the country’s rivers. Much of this comes from untreated sewage. The Ganges River has levels of fecal coliform, a dangerous bacterium that comes from untreated sewage, 3,000 percent higher than what is considered safe for bathing. More than three billion liters of waste are pumped into Delhi’s Yamuna River each day. “The river is dead, it just has not been officially cremated,” said Sunita Narain, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, one of India’s top environmental watchdog groups, to in reference to the Yamuna.

Air pollution is also a growing problem. There are four main sources: vehicles, power plants, industry, and refineries. India’s air pollution is exacerbated by its heavy reliance on coal for power generation. Coal supplies more than half the country’s energy needs and nearly three-quarters of its electricity. Reliance on coal has led to a 900 percent increase in carbon emissions over the past 40 years. India’s coal plants are old and not outfitted with modern pollution controls. Also, Indian coal has a high ash content, which creates smog. Vehicle emissions are responsible for 70 percent of the country’s air pollution. Exhaust from vehicles has increased 800 percent, and industrial pollution 400 percent, in the past 20 years.

Although the Constitution of India guarantees free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 to 14 and prohibits employment of children younger than 14 in any hazardous environment, child labour is rampant. According to an article, “The Hidden Factory: Child Labour in India,” in The South Asian, May 7, 2005, many consumer goods  are “the products of a hidden factory of countless children, many as young as five years old, toiling for tireless hours, under harsh, hazardous, exploitative, often life threatening conditions for extremely low wages.” The article states “India has the largest number of working children in the world.” Credible estimates range from 12 to 15 million child laborers. What is even more horrible is that a large percentage of these children are de facto slaves, bonded to their jobs, with no means of escape or freedom until they can repay their parents’ loans. The major industries using child labor are:

Carpets – An estimated 50,000 to 1,050,000 children, as young as six, are often chained to carpet looms in confined, dimly lit workshops, making the thousands of tiny wool knots that become expensive hand-knotted carpets for export. Recruiters or organized gangs pay landless peasants cash advances to “bond” their children to their jobs. The children suffer from spinal deformities, retarded growth, respiratory illnesses, and poor eyesight.

Brassware – An estimated 40,000 to 45,000 children, as young as six, are involved in brassware production, including jobs like removing molten metal from molds and furnaces, electroplating, polishing, and applying chemicals. If they survive being injured from molten metal and exposure to furnaces operating as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they often suffer from tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases due to inhalation of fumes from the furnaces and metal dust.

Leather – As many as 25,000 children, from 10 to 15, are involved in the manufacture of shoes. They suffer from respiratory problems, lung diseases, and skin infections from continuous skin contact with industrial adhesives and breathing the vapors from glues.

Gemstones – Children are commonly engaged as “apprentices” in the gem polishing industry. The learning process takes five to seven years and they work an average of 10 hours a day. Major health issues include tuberculosis and respiratory diseases.

Glass – This industry employs an estimated 8,000 to 50,000 children as young as eight. They work in an inferno due to the intense heat of glass furnaces (1,400-1,600o C) and suffer from skin burns, tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, mental retardation, and genetic cell damage.

Silk – An estimated 5,000 children, mostly girls from five to 16, are employed in silk manufacturing, which includes sericulture, dyeing, and weaving the silk. Chemicals and boiling water in the dyeing process are common health hazards; skin burns from the boiling water and respiratory diseases from the chemicals often result.

Agriculture –Parents pledge children as young as six to landlords as bonded laborers. The number of bonded laborers is not categorized by adults and children, but the total is estimated to range from 2.6 to 15 million. Children are involved in all types of agriculture and are completely controlled by their masters, receiving a bare minimum of food and lodging. More than 90 percent of bonded laborers in India, many of whom became bonded as children, never had the opportunity to go to school.

Mining – A 2006 report, “Our Mining Children,” prepared by a team of non-profit organizations, described the condition of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the mining industry.

Karnataka, for example, is a state with vast mineral resources, of which the Bellary district has the most extensive range. Minerals mined include iron ore, manganese, quartz, gold, copper, granite, and decorative stones. India is the fourth-largest iron-ore producer in the world. As a result of new government economic policies, a shift to privatization, an open market economy, and wide-open markets in China, South Korea, and Australia, mining companies have bought up thousands of acres of land in the district since 2000.

All of the mines visited by government teams had child laborers, some as young as five. It is estimated that as many as 200,000, or 50 percent, of the workers are children. The mining economy is only profitable because of large-scale child labor and the flouting of social and environmental laws. The mine owners say they only employ the adults, but as the families live at the mine site, the children join in the work. The parents force their children to work because they say they cannot survive otherwise.

As you can see, India is not any better than China for products to be made ? the pollution is just as bad, working conditions are as bad or worse, and child labor is rampant. Make the better choice ? Made in USA!

Does it Matter Where Products are Made?

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

We now live in a globalized economy, and many people say it doesn’t matter where something is made. They say that the industrialization of third world countries is good because it has provided jobs for millions of people and raised their standard of living. American consumers have benefitted from cheaper prices for the products they need and want. However, where products are made should matter to people who are concerned about the environment and the health and well-being of people around the world.

Manufacturing in America developed over a period of more than 200 years. It developed gradually, so there was the opportunity to learn about the hazards of industrialization on a smaller scale than has been possible with the rapid industrialization of developing countries. Pollution caused by specific industries affected small geographic areas, like West Virginia’s coal mining and Pennsylvania’s steel regions.

The Bill of Rights provided freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble, enabling affected communities and workers to address unsafe working conditions and pollution. Residents spoke out against pollution’s health effects in their communities. Workers formed unions to fight for better working conditions and higher wages, especially in hazardous occupations. Newspapers, and later radio and TV, made the public aware of what was happening in factories and mines. After sufficient pressure was put on elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels, laws were passed that improved working conditions, protected worker safety, and reduced pollution.

As a result, great strides on these issues were made in the U.S. in the 20th century. These efforts culminated in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970, consolidating 15 components from five agencies for the purpose of grouping all environmental regulatory activities in a single agency.

Since then, the U.S. has developed a comprehensive body of law to protect the environment and prevent pollution. The EPA enforces more than 15 statutes or laws, including the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act; the Endangered Species Act; the Pollution Prevention Act; and the Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticides Act. In turn, each of the 50 states has its own body of law to comply with federal laws and regulations.

Cleaning up the nation’s air, water, and land hasn’t come cheap. Since passing these laws, the U.S. government has spent trillions of dollars to clean up and prevent pollution. Individuals, small businesses, and corporations paid the taxes that funded these programs. But businesses were hit with a double whammy. They not only had to pay taxes for the government to carry out its end of these programs, they had to pay cleanup costs for their own sites and buy the equipment to prevent future pollution. In addition, they had to hire and train personnel to implement and maintain mandated pollution prevention systems and procedures.

According to a Census Bureau report “Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures,” as a result of a survey of 20,000 plants last conducted in 2005, U.S. manufacturers spent $5.9 billion on pollution equipment, and another $20.7 billion on pollution prevention.

The EPA has achieved some major successes:

  • New cars are 98 percent cleaner than in 1970 in terms of smog-forming pollutants.
  • Dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, lead poisoning have been reduced by 60 percent.
  • Levels of lead in children’s blood have declined 75 percent.
  • 60 percent of the nation’s waterways are safe for fishing and swimming.
  • 92 percent of Americans receive water that meets health standards.
  • 67 percent of contaminated Superfund sites nationwide have been cleaned up.

As a result, we now have cleaner air in our cities and cleaner and safer water in our streams, rivers, lakes, bays, and harbors than at any time since the Industrial Revolution began. These vast environmental improvements made in the last 40 years have benefitted every single American.

In contrast, India and China have been getting more polluted in the last 30 years as they have industrialized. Since 2006, Blacksmith Institute’s yearly reports have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts posed by toxic pollution, and in some cases, have compelled cleanup work at pollution hotspots. Blacksmith Institute reports have been issued jointly with Green Cross Switzerland since 2007.

Six cities in China and four cities in India were listed in the Blacksmith Institute’s “Dirty 30” of the 2007 report, “The World’s Worst Polluted Places.” This list was based on scoring criteria devised by an international panel including researchers from Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Mt. Sinai Hospital, along with specialists from Green Cross Switzerland who participated in assessing more than 400 polluted sites.

It’s hard to describe the horrors of pollution in Chinese cities. Imagine living in Xiditou (pronounced shee-dee-tow), about 60 miles east of Beijing, where the Feng Chan River that runs through the town is now black as ink and clotted with debris. The local economy has doubled in just four years, but at a terrible cost. More than 100 factories occupy what were once fields of rice and cotton. These include dozens of local chemical plants, makers of toxins including sulfuric acid, and these factories disgorge wastewater directly into the river. Industrial poisons have leached into groundwater, contaminating drinking supplies. The air has a distinctively sour odor. The rate of cancer is now more than 18 times the national average.

According to the USA Today article, “Pollution Poisons China’s Progress,” of July 4, 2005, “People regard their drinking water as little better than liquid poison, but unable to afford bottled water for all their daily needs, most adults continue to drink it. They buy mineral water only for their children.”

Another horrible location is Tianying, in Anhui province, which is one of the largest lead production centers in China, with an output of half of the country’s total. Low-level technologies, illegal operations, and a lack of air-pollution control measures have caused severe lead poisoning. Lead concentrations in the air and soil are 8.5 to 10 times national standards. Local crops and wheat at farmers’ homes are also contaminated by lead dust, at 24 times the national standard.

The ironic note to these statistics is that China actually has more stringent restrictions on lead than the U.S. The difference is that neither the local nor the national government is enforcing the laws. Residents, particularly children, suffer from lead poisoning, which causes encephalopathy, lower IQs, short attention spans, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, hearing and vision problems, stomachaches, kidney malfunction, anemia, and premature births.

Perhaps you would like to live in Wanshan, China, termed the mercury capital of China because more than 60 percent of the country’s mercury deposits were discovered there. Mercury contamination extends throughout the city’s air, surface water, and soils. Concentrations in the soil range from 24 to 348 mg/kg, 16 to 232 times the national standard. To put this into perspective, the mercury from one fluorescent bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking, and it only takes one teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 20-acre lake – forever. Health hazards include kidney and gastrointestinal damage, neurological damage, and birth defects. Chronic exposure is fatal.

China is now the largest source of CO2 and SO2 emissions in the world (SO2 causes acid rain). Japan, South Korea, and the northwest region of the U.S. suffer from acid rain produced by China’s coal-fired power plants and higher CO2.readings from easterly trade winds.

The horrific effects of pollution in China and its staggering cost in human life, are a graphic example of why Chinese companies can outcompete American companies – not only because of their disparity in wages, but also because their government does not enforce the same environmental and social standards. As Americans, who place a high value on human life and protecting our environment, we wouldn’t have it any other way. But American manufacturing industries do pay a penalty competing against China.

During China’s rapid industrialization of the last 30 years, the U.S. has spent billions on technologies and equipment to clean up and prevent pollution. China had a golden opportunity to benefit from all the hard lessons learned by developed countries during their own industrialization. If China had purchased the pollution abatement equipment developed in the U.S., their industrialization would not have caused such horrendous pollution. Millions of lives would have been saved!

In the U.S., our landfills wouldn’t be filling up with discarded products from China that are so cheap that it is easier to throw them away than repair them. Wouldn’t it be worth paying more for “Made in USA” products that are higher quality and last longer?

Thus, if you are concerned about global pollution and want to save lives in both China and the U. S., you should choose to buy “Made in USA” products that have been produced in the most non-polluting manner that is technically feasible at present. My next article will take a look at India’s environment.





Import Penetration Still Outweighs Reshoring Trend

Monday, March 11th, 2013

In January, the U. S. Business and Industry Council released a report, “Import Penetration Rises again in 2011; Challenges Manufacturing Renaissance, Insourcing Claims,” by Alan Tonelson. According to the report,” the share of U.S. markets for advanced manufactured goods controlled by imports reached another all-time high in 2011… and domestic manufacturing’s highest value sectors keep falling behind foreign-based rivals.”

The USBIC report shows that “imports captured 37.57 percent of the collective $2.01 trillion American market in 2011 for a group of more than 100 advanced manufactured products,” up from 37.07 percent in 2010. When government data to calculate import penetration rate were first issued in 1997,”imports controlled 24.49 percent of substantially the same group of U.S. manufactured products.”

“Fully 29 of the 106 sectors for which reliable data were available featured import penetration rates of 50 percent or more in 2011. In 2010, 31 of these industries had lost half of their home U.S. market to imports, and in 1997, only 8 of the 114 sectors initially studied were in this situation.”

Between 1997 and 2011, 98 industries lost shares of their home market while only 8 gained shares. The industries that gained shares are:  “semiconductor machinery; saw mill products; paperboard mill products; motor vehicle stamping operations; transformer, inductor, and coil manufacturing; electron tubes; computer storage devices; and heavy duty trucks and chassis.”

The 98 industries include:  “semiconductors; electro-medical apparatus; pharmaceuticals; turbines and turbine generator sets; construction equipment; farm machinery and equipment; mining machinery and equipment; several machine tool-related categories; and ball and roller bearings.”

The report states that “from 1997-2011, output fell in 38 of the 106 total industries studied over this time span – nearly 36 percent of the total. These ‘declining’ industries include electricity measuring and test instruments; relays and industrial controls; motors and generators; motor vehicle engines and engine parts; several machine tool-related categories; and environmental controls.” In 11 more sectors, output growth was less than 10 percent, “including semiconductors; semiconductor production equipment; motor vehicle transmission and power train equipment; miscellaneous industrial machinery; and medicinals and botanicals.”

Mr. Tonelson writes, “High and rising import penetration rates for this many critical domestic industries over nearly a decade and a half represent powerful evidence of chronic, significant weakness in domestic manufacturing.”

In a section titled, “The Manufacturing Renaissance that Isn’t, he disputes the predictions of the Boston Consulting Group’s 2011 report, “Made in America, Again: Why Manufacturing Will Return to the U.S.” This report contends that American manufacturing would experience a renaissance because of rising costs in China and other parts of Asia so there would be a convergence in the total costs of manufacturing by some regions of the U. S. by 2015.

If U. S. manufacturers are still losing market share to foreign competitors through import penetration in their home market, this is a sign that “the United States has not even started to become “increasingly attractive for the production of many goods sold to consumers in North America” as predicted by the Boston Consulting Group, much less experiencing a Manufacturing Renaissance.

What is even more troubling to Mr. Tonelson is that the USBIC report focuses on the capital-and technology-intensive sectors that are “keys to maintaining national prosperity, technological leadership, and national security.”  The report shows that “dozens of America’s most advanced manufacturing industries are becoming just as vulnerable to import competition – and in some cases to import domination – as labor-intensive industries like clothing and toys.”

He concludes that the conventional stimulus strategies have had the disappointing results of “less growth and employment bang per investment-target stimulus buck with each passing year” because “U. S. imports of capital goods as such generates much less American output supported by much less American employment than purchases of domestically produced capital goods.”

In his opinion, President’s Obama’s goal of doubling exports during the 2009-2014 period isn’t going to improve the situation either when imports keep rising faster than exports. While there was a 15.45 percent improvement from 2010 to 2011, the January-October 2012 period only showed a 4.56 percent improvement.

Mr. Tonelson points out that negotiating new trade agreements isn’t producing the desired effect of increasing exports. The latest agreement negotiated with Korea has had the opposite effect  ? U. S. exports to Korea dropped by more than 18 percent while imports from Korea are up 4.74 from when it came into force in March 2012.

He concludes that the continued rise of import penetration in the U. S. indicates that American industry is losing ground relative to foreign-based competitors and “the nation is not making enough of the structural changes needed to create healthy growth and avoid reflating the last decade’s credit bubble.”

In an interview by Richard McCormack in the January 15, 2013 issue of Manufacturing & Technology News, Mr. Tonelson, stated, “I think the only way that these trends reverse meaningfully is if American trade policy changes. Unless we reduce the incentives of U.S. companies and companies all over the world to supply the U.S. market from overseas, this tide will not turn.”

While reducing the incentives of U. S. companies and foreign companies to supply the U. S. market from overseas is an important step in turning the tide, it would be the first of many steps we need to take. As I have written previously, we need to change our trade, tax, and regulations policies to help U. S. manufacturers be more competitive in both their home market and the global marketplace. We need to develop a national manufacturing strategy that would address all of the various factors that are resulting in the decline in the decline in the United States’ share of the global manufacturing output.

I did take exception to Mr. Tonelson’s dispute of the predictions of the Boston Consulting Group’s report and told him that the data is lagging reality ? “reshoring” is happening. As a manufacturers’ sales rep for American companies that perform fabrication services, I am in the “trenches” competing with offshore companies. Nearly every manufacturer I represent has experienced gaining new customers that are “reshoring” manufacturing from China. I have interviewed dozens of companies at trade shows over the past year and a half, and every company I interviewed had experienced “reshoring.” Nearly all of the San Diego region’s contract manufacturers of electronic manufacturing services have benefitted from “reshoring” in the past year.

The Reshoring Initiative, founded by Harry Moser in 2010, has documented case studies of companies reshoring. In the article, “Pumping Muscle into U.S. Manufacturing,” by Craig Barner in the March 6, 2013 issue of Forbes magazine, Mr. Moser said, “For example, about 220 to 250 organizations have brought manufacturing back to the U.S….with the heaviest migration from China. This represents about 50,000 jobs, which is 10% of job growth in manufacturing since January 2010, he said.”

“The top reshoring industries include electrical equipment, appliances and components; transportation equipment; and machinery, Moser said. Key reasons for returning to the U.S. include rising wages offshore, better quality of goods produced in the U.S., easier access to repairs and lower delivery costs, he said.”

On March 4, 2013, Prime Advantage, the leading buying consortium for midsized manufacturers, announced the findings of its eleventh semi-annual Group Outlook Survey. “A large majority — more than 70% of respondents — have increased their material and service purchases from American suppliers and service providers. Mexico is the second choice for sourcing, with nearly 28% of respondents moving sourcing to that region. The most frequently cited benefits that manufacturers hope to see in nearshoring are shorter lead times, as indicated by 67% of respondents, and lower inventories (49%). Among other benefits, companies cited better supply chain control (40%) and better overall communication (39%).”

If more American manufacturers would utilize the free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™ developed by Harry Moser, more companies would understand the benefits of “reshoring” and foster a true renaissance in American manufacturing.


What is the State of the American Metal Forming and Fabricating Industry

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) held an executive conference in Irvine on February 6-7, 2013 for their forming and fabricating members. Attendees came from as far away as Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. The companies represented ranged in size from a low of 50 employees to a high of 350 employees.

On the first day, the schedule of events included presentations on business conditions and benchmarking by PMA President, Bill Gaskin. Mr. Gaskin reported that the metal forming and fabricating industry had sustained 40 months of a general upturn in business since the Great Recession officially ended in the summer of 2009.

In 2011, orders were up 8% over 2010, and shipments were up 11% over 2010. The Year to Date figures through November for 2012 showed an upturn of 6% for orders and 5% for shipments based on the control group of 100 member companies. Employment was up 4.3% on the average, and 34% of companies had openings for skilled workers.

Other good news was that metal prices in general had gone down by about 50% since 2011, except for copper and high nickel stainless steel alloys. In turn, prices that the companies get for scrap material have dropped.

Then, Kathie Poindexter, Manager of Production Marketing of Epicor Manufacturing gave a presentation on “Maximize Lean Strategies with Mobile Technologies on the Plant Floor. One of the top business drivers is utilizing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) strategy to reduce cost of operations (44%) and because workers are increasingly mobile (39%).

About 35% of manufacturers provide front-line workers with mobile devices to increase worker productivity and improve collaboration. Some of the benefits of utilizing hand-held mobile devices on the shop floor in conjunction with Epicor’s ERP software solutions are:

  • Asset tracking
  • Real-time equipment usage
  • Electronic Kan Ban
  • Instant inventory counts
  • Electronic work orders
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Quality and error proofing
  • Labor tracking per job or piece of equipment
  • Real-time production management
  • Support for lean initiatives
  • Improved decision making
  • Increased management effectiveness

Laptops, tablets, and “smart” phones utilized by field sales and service personnel provide “business anywhere, anytime” benefits:

  • Instant quotes
  • Real-time inventory
  • Immediate order processing
  • Real-time delivery status

After this presentation, the group was bused to the nearby facility of MK Products/MK Manufacturing to see how the Epicor ERP solutions have been utilized by the company. MK Products is a privately owned company, founded in 1966, to manufacture a full line of Push-Pull welding products and Orbital welding systems, welding “guns” and fusion tube welding products. The sister company, MK Manufacturing, performs contract design, engineering, and manufacturing services, including machining, fabrication, processing, and assembly.

Chris Westlake, President, conducted the tour of the over 100,000 sq. ft. facility and gave an enthusiastic description of how they have utilized the Epicor ERP solutions and hand-held mobile devices from the initial concept design to manufacturing, processing, assembly, and shipping. Real-time tracking and retrieval of inventory for use on the shop floor reduced their labor needs and improved efficiency substantially.

After dinner, I gave a presentation on “Returning Manufacturing to America,” focusing on how American metal forming and fabrication manufacturers can use the principles of Total Cost of Ownership  and the Total Cost EstimatorTM developed by Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative to help their customers and prospects understand the benefits of returning manufacturing to America.

I presented case studies showing that many manufacturers often make the decision to offshore based on faulty assumptions that prove to be far off from reality in execution. Many times the anticipated cost savings in offshoring have been offset by the hidden costs and risk factors in doing business offshore. This has resulted in an increasing number of companies, even multinational corporations such as General Electric and NCR, to return product line manufacturing to the United States. The Reshoring Initiative estimates that about 10% of manufacturers have “reshored” resulting in 50,000 jobs.

The next day featured breakfast and a tour of the re-opened Amada America, Inc. Solution Center in Buena Park California. The Solution Center is Amada’s equipment showcase and technical center for the western United States. Amada America, Inc. was established in Seattle, Washington in 1971 and has been located in California since 1973. Its company headquarters are located in a nearby building in Buena Park.

Amada America COO and President, Mike Guerin, began the tour with overview of Amada’s history as a company in Japan and America. What was exciting to me was the fact that in 2011 Amada made a decision to manufacture laser-cutting machines in America, opening a new plant recently in Brea, California to do so, with plans to also manufacture turret presses and brakes at the facility in the future.  The main reasons are:  lower labor rates in the U. S. than Japan, reduced transportation costs, and proximity to their major market.

The facility tour was conducted by Joe Greeninger, Division Manager, and featured several new models of fiber laser machines with 3-axis linear drive systems, traditional servo-driven lasers, turret presses, automation equipment, and press brakes.

The technical capabilities of the new fiber laser machines were quite impressive compared to CO2 laser cutting systems. Some of the advantages are:

  • No harmful emissions because they don’t require gas to generate the laser beam
  • Expanded capabilities – can cut copper, brass and titanium in addition to aluminum and steels and can cut thinner gauge material
  • Lower maintenance because there are no mirrors in the laser source

After returning from the tour, the attendees participated in a business roundtable discussion of “hot button” business issues. The top issues were:

Skilled workers  – A few of the companies attending were providing training in-house using ToolingU curriculum and others were using paying for employees to take classes at local community colleges. One of the Illinois companies had an apprenticeship program through the Technology Manufacturing Association in Illinois. California attendees from Walker Corporation mentioned getting training through a private company in San Bernardino, Technical Employment Training, Inc. Training is also available through California’s Manufacturing Extension Program (MEPs), CMTC in southern California and Manex in northern California. I shared information about the new Workshop for Warriors in San Diego providing training for veterans in machining, sheet metal fabrication, welding, and manufacturing software.

Economy – Manufacturers need certainty to be able to plan, and there is no certainty with the fear of sequestration, high federal budget deficits, and national debt. Companies are remaining lean and not adding people unless need to replace someone or need special skills.

One company shared how they reduced utility costs by paining walls white and converting from pneumatic to electric compressors. Another company shared that their utility company did and energy assessment and provided them with free lighting to reduce energy usage.

Health Care – Most of the companies pay for all or most of their employees’ health insurance now, but it will be cheaper to pay penalty when Obamacare goes into full effect. Question is whether they can get and retain skilled employees if do not provide some health care benefit. One company pays for cost of “Medigap” insurance to retain older skilled workers when they qualify for Medicare.

Doing business in California – California attendees reported that their supply chain is going away, their Workers’ Compensation insurance costs are higher, and regulations by Cal OSHA, Cal EPA, and the Air Quality Monitoring District are more stringent than federal regulations. In addition, the cost of living, housing prices, and taxes are higher than other states. The only advantages most could see were the great weather and that California seems to be a hotbed of invention/innovation by startups coupled with a strong angel and Venture Capital investor network.

Sustaining Lean – Attendees agree that you need a lean “champion” and cultural change to succeed. Engaging customers to help and networking with others is important. Setting an annual goal of regularly scheduled Kaizen events is beneficial. The ERP system you use can help of hurt lean sustainability.

Taxes – It is important to get elected representatives at the state and federal level to realize that 60-70% of manufacturers are sub-chapter “S” corporations so they are taxed at the individual rate. Reducing taxes for “C” corporations as is being discussed will not help these companies. The R&D tax credit needs to be made permanent instead of renewed every year. The Value Added Taxes (VATs) charged by most other countries were discussed, but no one thought they would be seriously considered in the near future.

Suggestions for the next executive conference included having a sub-group for technical personnel to share knowledge and case studies on how to make particular parts and having a tour of a metal forming and fabricating member company near the conference location.

It is great that the U. S. metal forming and fabricating industry has remained strong, but it would be even better if more manufacturing sectors were doing as well so they could be providing more jobs. One of the reasons that metal forming and fabricating industry is so doing so well is that new, state-of-the-art equipment is very automated and highly efficient so it is less labor intensive than many other manufacturing industries. Transportation costs for metal parts, especially larger parts, cost more than plastic or rubber parts so there is more incentive for original equipment manufacturers to use vendors that are closer to them. This means that there has been less outsourcing offshore for metal formed and fabricated parts than plastic and rubber parts. As transportation costs and labor rates increase even more than they already have, there will be even less incentive to offshore metal formed and fabricated parts in the future.