Posts Tagged ‘trade deficit’

“Eliminate the Trade Deficit” Resonates in Halls of Congress

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

 “You were ahead of the curve on trade.” This was the common refrain heard last week by members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America who attended our annual fly-in to Washington, D. C. We had eight teams of members visiting Congressional Representatives and Senators on March 14th and 15th. As Chair of our developing California chapter, it was my fifth year attending the CPA fly-in, and our simple message of eliminating the trade deficit resonated well in the halls of Congress.

No one could deny that we have a huge deficit as shown on the chart below:

 

The annual trade deficit has reduced our U. S. GDP by some 3% to 5.5% each year, and those reductions compound over time.

There is no historical record of any other country in history running 41 years of consecutive trade deficits. Why is this important? Because every billion dollars of net imports costs 4,500 American jobs according to conservative estimates. So last year’s $502 billion deficit equates to 2.25 million jobs lost.

As a result, our Labor Force Participation is in serious decline. The U. S. is the only G7 nation with a DECLINE in LFPR since 1998 for workers ages 15-64. It peaked at 77.4% in 1998 and dropped down five points to 72.6% in 2015, meaning that over 7 million people dropped out of labor force since 1998.

The remedy recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America is simple: Congress should establish a national goal to eliminate the trade deficit.

Balanced trade over time is the goal of free trade and of fair trade. Balanced trade will re-industrialize our country, enable massive job creation, grow our wealth and effectively neutralize foreign mercantilism. Trade policy must address true drivers of deficit, these countries and their practices. Many of these countries have export-oriented growth strategies in which they rely upon the US market to consume their exports rather than increasing their internal consumption. China, Germany, Japan and other countries pursue net exports through strategic mercantilism, not free trade. Currency manipulation, value added taxes, state influenced enterprises, and other
tactics are used.

The following top 10 countries account for 90% of America’s 2016 goods trade deficit:

Rank Country 1992 Deficit 2016 Deficit Change 1992-2016
1 China -$18B -$355B -$337B
2 Mexico -$6B -$115B -$121B
3 Japan -$50B -$75B -$25B
4 Germany -$8B -$70B -$62B
5 Canada -$15B -$58B -$53B
6 Ireland +5B -$36B -$37B
7 Vietnam $0B -$34B -$34B
8 South Korea -$2B -$30B -$30B
9 Italy -$4B -$30B -$26B
10 India -$2B -$30B -$28B

Note: These figures are based on U.S. Commerce Dept. data subtracting Imports for Consumption from Domestic Exports which are intended to strip out goods that enter and leave the U.S. simply for re-export, without having any significant value added to them inside the U.S.

Currency manipulation and misalignment are key tactics that the above countries use to gain an advantage in trade. Currency manipulation is trade cheating, because it is both an illegal tariff and a subsidy.

Foreign governments intervene in foreign exchange markets by buying dollars. More than 20 countries have intervened in foreign exchange markets to undervalue their currencies in the past ten years. These countries account for one-third of the world economy and two-thirds of the world’s current account surpluses. Gagnon has calculated that “A country’s current account balance increases between 60 and 100 cents for each dollar spent on intervention.”

“The largest loser is the United States, whose trade and current account deficits have been $200 billion to $500 billion per year larger as a result. The United States has thus suffered 1 million to 5 million job losses.” (Bergsten, 2012) The U. S. economy cannot produce jobs and wealth without addressing this problem. The Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes the following solutions:

• U.S. trade enforcement law should treat currency undervaluation as a countervailable subsidy
• Tariffs should be applied against currency manipulators to neutralize their unearned advantage
• Government policy should pursue a dollar priced at equilibrium rather than accept a persistently overvalued dollar
• Trade agreements should include effective controls on currency manipulation and misalignment

Border Adjustable Consumption Taxes (aka VATs) are a tariff by another name. They are allowed under WTO rules and range from 12% to 24% with the average being 17% globally. This means that virtually all foreign countries tax our exports at this average 17% VAT. They subsidize domestic shipments abroad with rebating the VAT to their manufacturers. The U.S. does not have a VAT to offset this advantage.

Consumption taxes are a tax on consumption as opposed to income, wealth, property, or wages. A Goods and Service Tax (GST) and a Value Added Tax (VAT) are consumption taxes. They are usually a tax only on the “value added” to a product, material, or service. Over 150 countries have such taxes, but the U. S. does not.

The U. S. negotiated tariff reductions or elimination in good faith with our trading partners under NAFTA and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, but Mexico instituted a 15% VAT, and Central America established a 12% VAT.

After 40 years of tariff reduction under various trade agreements, other countries replaced tariffs with VATs, but the U. S. did not. Thus, American exporters face nearly the same border taxes as they did in the early 1970s.

To solve this problem, the Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes that Congress implement a border adjustable consumption tax (VAT) and use the proceeds to credit against the payroll taxes paid by all workers and businesses. The benefits would be:

• Reduce the cost of labor in the U.S.
• Give every worker a raise
• Lower the price of U.S. exports
• Levy a tax on imports

In President Obama’s 2016 budget, Payroll Taxes were projected to be 31% of the revenue or $1.11 trillion. If a 12.9% VAT were set, it would produce approximately $1.45 trillion in tax revenue, completely offsetting the revenue from Payroll Taxes. All Payroll Taxes could be eliminated with a credit. With a 15% VAT, other tax reform or domestic production cost reduction could be funded. European Union countries use their VATs to provide another revenue stream to allow them to reduce their corporate taxes to be more globally competitive.

The benefit of giving a Payroll Tax credit out of VAT funds is that it would offset the regressiveness of a VAT by elimination of the regressive Payroll Tax. There would be no impact on prices of domestic goods and services, but prices of imported goods and services would increase. This would incentivize consumers to buy Made in USA products instead of imports. In addition, it would reduce the cost of production for U. S. producers enabling them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Our Coalition members also encouraged Congress to reinstate the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that was struck down by an unelected foreign tribunal of the World Trade Organization. Congress caved in to the WTO ruling and passed repeal legislation that exceeded the WTO ruling eliminating COOL for beef and pork, as well as for ground beef and ground pork.

Canada and Mexico want to export their cattle, hogs, beef, and pork to the U. S. without informational labeling that reveals where the cattle and hogs were born, raised, and slaughtered. Right now, meat packers are able to import cattle and hogs and slaughter them to get the USDA stamp. Consumers want to know where cattle and hogs were born and raised, not just slaughtered for reasons of food safety.

Congressional Representatives and Senators need to have the courage to reinstate COOL and vigorously defend our national sovereignty and consumer choice against international interference. COOL legislation enables consumers to Buy American in the grocery store. It prevents consumer deception and empowers consumers to buy food produced under the safety regime of their choosing. It would help to jumpstart America’s ailing rural economy through supporting domestic producers and preventing industry consolidation.

The final message that is critical is that the U. S. must modernize its foreign investment rules to protect American companies that are critical to our national security and economic security. Investors from countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are making strategic acquisitions of U. S. companies and land that threaten our security and future prosperity. These same countries either severely restrict or do not allow 100% acquisition of companies in their country. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) can block incoming investment based upon national security concerns, but not for economic strategy reasons as other countries do.

Congress must update the laws governing foreign investment to include economic security and allow longer review periods, beyond 30 days, for CFIUS to review proposed investments. This would allow more time to gauge systemic threats to U. S. interests in addition to individual cases. The legislation should include a “net benefit” test to encompass American economic interests where proposed acquisitions of companies that are important to future U. S. technology and employment are concerned (both civilian and defense related).

The question now is – Will Congress have the courage to take the bold action needed to eliminate the trade deficit, address currency manipulation, reinstate COOL and control foreign investments? Time will tell.

 

How Could the Trans Pacific Partnership Affect you or your Business

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

On February 4, 2016, President Obama signed the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on behalf of the United States. The TPP agreement has been in negotiation behind closed doors since 2010 between the United States and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP is a “docking agreement” so other countries could be added without the approval of Congress. India, China, and Korea have expressed interest in joining the TPP.

Our elected representatives in Congress had no involvement in writing the TPP – it was written by the staff of the U. S. Trade Representative office, with over 600 corporate advisors (think corporate lawyers) helping them write it. It contains more than 5,500 pages, and no member of Congress could view it as it was being negotiated until late 2014. Even then, they could not take any staff with them and were not allowed to take pen, pencil, paper, or a camera when they went to view it at the U. S. T. R.’s office.

The full text of the TPP was finally released to the public to review in November 2015, and it now awaits Congressional approval. According to the rules established by the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that passed Congress narrowly in June 2015, Congress will only be allowed 45 days for committee analysis after the bill is introduced, only 15 days after that is completed to bring it up for a floor vote, and only 20 hours of debate in the House and Senate. The TPA does not allow any amendments, filibuster, or cloture. Notice that the TPP is called an “Agreement,” as was NAFTA, CAFTA, KORUS, and every other trade deal in the past 22 years. The purpose for this is to get around the requirement of the two-thirds vote of the Senate to approve a Treaty that is required under Article 1, Section 8 of the Treaty clause in the U. S. Constitution. The TPP requires only a simple majority vote (50% + one.)

Supporters of the TPP say that it represents 40% of the world’s economic activity (GDP), but they fail to mention that the U. S. and its current trading partners represent 80% of that 40%. The other five countries represent the other 20%, with Japan alone being 17.7% of that total.

The current goal of trade agreements as given by Congress to the U.S.T.R is to “remove trade barriers,” such as tariffs, quotas, etc. and increase U. S. exports. The U. S. cut tariffs and opened our markets by means of these trade agreements. However, our trading partners didn’t really open their markets to us. They played another game ? mercantilism, featuring rampant global currency devaluation, consumption taxes called Value Added Taxes (VATs) that are tariffs by another name, massive subsidies to their industries, and industrial policies that favor their domestic supply chains.

In brief, the effect to the United States of this unbalanced trade has been:

  • Loss of >600,000 mfg. jobs from NAFTA
  • Loss of 3.2 million mfg. jobs between 2000 – 2010 from China’s entry into WTO
  • Loss of >60,000 mfg. jobs since Korea-US Agreement went into effect in 2012
  • Loss of an estimated 3.4 million U. S. service & call center jobs since 2000
  • Loss of an estimated 700,000 public sector jobs (2008-2013)
  • Racked up cumulative trade deficit of $12 trillion in goods (average $500 billion each year) since 1994

As a result, we now have the worst trade deficit in U. S. history, and we are off to even a higher deficit this year based on the trade figures released for January ($45.9 billion) and February ($47.1 billion). As a recent example of the effect of trade agreements on our total trade deficit, our trade deficit with Korea has nearly doubled in less than four years, increasing from $14.7 billion in 2012 to $28.4 billion in 2015. Proponents of KORUS promised that it would create 70,000 jobs and $10 billion in exports.

As mentioned in a previous article, proponents of the TPP aren’t even giving such rosy predictions. The Peterson Institute’s analysis of the TPP states: “…GDP is projected to fall slightly (-0.54 percent), employment to decline by 448,000 jobs…”

What are some of the ways the TPP could affect you or your business?

Buy American Act would essentially be made Null and Void: The worst effect would be to those businesses who sell to the government, whether it be local, state, or federal because under the TPP procurement chapter, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries. This means that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement would be provided access equal to domestic firms to bid on government procurement contracts at the local, state, and federal level. There are many companies that survived the recession and continue in business today because of the Buy American provisions for government procurement, especially defense and military. The TPP could be a deathblow for companies that rely on defense and military contracts. However, it would also affect procurement for infrastructure projects, such as bridges and freeways, as well as construction of local, state, or federal facilities.

Of course, this means that U. S. companies could bid on government procurement projects in TPP countries, but the trading benefit is miniscule. The U. S. government procurement market is 7X the size of current TPP partner countries (+550 billion vs. $55 -70 billion.) It is also highly unlikely that U. S. companies would be the low bidder against domestic companies in these TPP countries because of the vast difference in wages in countries such as Vietnam, where the average wage is 55 cents/hour. Past trade agreements has resulted in an average annual wage loss of 5.5% for full-time workers without college degrees, and U. S. wages have been stagnant for decades, growing by only about 2% per year since 2008. The result has been increased wage inequality from low to high wage earners.

Product Labeling could be Made Illegal: If you like to know if your food is safe, then you won’t like the fact thatCountry of Origin,” “Non-GMO,” or “Organic” labeling could be viewed as a “barrier to trade” and thus be deemed illegal. According to Food & Water Watch, around 90% of the shrimp and catfish that Americans eat are imported. They warn, “The TPP will increase imports of potentially unsafe and minimally inspected fish and seafood products, exposing consumers to more and more dangerous seafood.” Many TPP countries are farm-raising seafood in polluted water using chemicals and antibiotics prohibited in the U. S. Farmed seafood from Malaysia, Vietnam, and China is being raised in water quality equivalent to U. S. sewers. Today, the FDA only inspects 2% of seafood, fruits and vegetables, and the USDA only inspects 4-5% of meat & poultry. Increased imports of food from TPP trading partners could swamp FDA and USDA inspections, so that even less is inspected.

TPP would Increase Immigration: If you are concerned about jobs for yourself or family members, then you won’t like the fact that the TPP increases “the number of L1 visas and the number of tourist visas, which can be used for business purposes.” Any service provider (phone service, security, engineers, lawyers, architects or any company providing a service) can enter into a TPP partner country and provide that service. Companies don’t have to hire Americans or pay American wages – they can bring in own workers and pay less than the American minimum wage.

TPP would Increase Job Losses in Key Industries: If you work in the automotive or textile industries, you may lose your job. The Center for Automotive Research projects a loss of 91,500 U. S. auto jobs to Japan with the reduction of 225,000 automobiles produced in the U. S. Also, the National Council of Textile Industries projects a loss of 522,000 jobs in the U. S. textile and related sectors to Vietnam.

TPP would Reduce Reshoring: Because TPP will reduce tariffs in trading partner countries, such as Vietnam, it will make the Total Cost of Ownership analysis to return manufacturing to America more difficult to justify. The high U. S. dollar has already diminished reshoring in the past year, so Harry Moser, Founder and President of the Reshoring Initiative, recently told me that “The combination of the high USD and TPP will reduce the rate of reshoring by an estimated 20 – 50%.”

Remember that the TPP is missing any provisions to address the mercantilist policies practiced by our trading partners: currency manipulation, Value Added Taxes that are both a hidden tariff and a hidden export subsidy, government subsidies/state owned enterprises, and “product dumping.”

 America is at a crossroads. We can either continue down the path of increasing trade deficits and increasing national debt by allowing anything mined, manufactured, grown, or serviced to be outsourced to countries with predatory trade policies. Or, we can forge a new path by developing and implementing a national strategy to win the international competition for good jobs, sustained economic growth and strong domestic supply chains. If you support the latter path, then add your voice to mine and millions of others in urging Congress not to approve the TPP in either the regular session before the Presidential election or the “lame duck” session after the election.

CPA Releases Competitiveness Strategy for the United StatesCPA Releases Competitiveness Strategy for the United States

Friday, November 20th, 2015

For several years, organizations and elected representatives in Congress have proposed developing a national manufacturing strategy. For example, the Information Technology& Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report, “The Case for a National Manufacturing Strategy,” in April 2011 and the Alliance for American Manufacturing has repeatedly put forward a “Plan to Save Manufacturing,” calling for a national manufacturing strategy to reverse the decline in U.S. manufacturing and the good jobs that come with it. Bills sponsored by Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) have even passed the House of Representatives, but have died in the Senate.

On November 11th, the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) released “A Competitiveness Strategy for the United States – America at a Crossroads,” which addresses other sectors of our economy in addition to manufacturing.

“America needs to start winning again,” said Michael Stumo, CEO of CPA. “That is why the mission of the Competitiveness Strategy is to:

‘Win the international competition for good jobs, sustained real economic growth and prosperity with a national strategy to counter foreign mercantilism, balance trade and grow strong domestic supply chains.’”

“Across the USA, localities and states employ plans to attract jobs,” said Brian O’Shaughnessy, CPA Chief Co-Chair and Chairman of Revere Copper Products. “Other countries have sophisticated national strategies to acquire industries and bring good paying jobs to their countries. The USA has no comprehensive national strategy for domestic production and good paying jobs to guide trade negotiators and administration officials.”

CPA’s Competitiveness Strategy argues that:

The United States is losing an economic competition against other nations whose mercantilist strategies are destroying our manufacturing jobs, critical industries, our standard of living, our national security, the security of our food supply, and our children’s futures.

The threat to the U. S. economy and national security is grave. Other trading nations are using comprehensive strategies to import jobs across all economic sectors, but are particularly focused on strategically significant technologies and industries. American companies in these sectors face not only wide-ranging mercantilist practices and non-tariff trade barriers such as currency manipulation, tariffs and subsidies, but also much more sophisticated and specific strategies aimed at identifying, acquiring, or otherwise controlling critical technologies.

CPA’s strategy holds out the promise that the U. S. is in control of its own destiny and can re-assert itself as a great manufacturing and producing nation with a rising standard of living for all. We can develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that retains and reinforces our leadership in innovation, locates investment and production in the United States, and raises employment by creating good paying jobs.

The ultimate mission of the strategy is to win the international competition for good jobs and sustained economic growth. The mission recognizes we are in competition with other countries. The Competitiveness Strategy includes nineteen action steps focused upon three interrelated goals:

  1. Identifying and countering foreign mercantilist strategies that grow their economies at the expense of other countries through achieving a persistent trade surplus
  2. Balancing the national trade deficit
  3. Growing domestic supply chains

“All three goals are interrelated and must be pursued together,” continued Stumo. “The President rightfully created the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to grow domestic supply chains, but the effort cannot succeed unless we combat powerful foreign tactics to take those industries away. Further, a new effort to counter foreign mercantilism and trade cheating is essential, but must have the goal of balancing trade to be fully effective.”
“Additionally, balancing trade is essential, but merely exporting raw materials is insufficient. American must grow and retain a diverse array of industries that add value to our products and create good jobs, with special attention paid to advanced and critical industry supply chains,” Stumo concluded.

CPA’s competitiveness strategy shown below is succinct, yet comprehensive:

“Identify and counter foreign mercantilist strategies that grow their economies at the expense of other countries through achieving a persistent trade surplus

  1. End both currency exchange rate imbalances and the accumulation of excessive US dollar holdings by non-US public and private entities.
  2. Impose offsetting tariffs to neutralize foreign government subsidies to industries and supply chains that compete with ours.
  3. Counter foreign government policies that force offshoring by conditioning access to their markets on transfers of technology, research facilities and/or production to their countries, as well as compliance with export performance and domestic content requirements, while their exporters have access to US markets without these conditions.
  4. Ensure that foreign greenfield investments in the US and acquisitions of existing US companies provide a clear “net benefit” to the US with special scrutiny in cases of state influenced foreign entities.
  5. Protect US food security from foreign government tactics to seize markets.

Balance trade

  1. Offset cumulative trade deficits of recent decades and excessive accumulations of dollar reserves through sustained trade surplus to ultimately achieve a long term overall trade balance.
  2. Insure that the composition of trade includes a substantial trade surplus in high value added and advanced manufactured goods.
  3. Make the US workforce more cost competitive by promoting fair pay, rising living standards and safe working conditions for workers everywhere.
  4. Reduce US producers’ trade disadvantage through tax reform which finances the reduction of payroll taxes and health insurance costs with a border adjustable consumption tax in a revenue and distribution neutral manner.
  5. Lower corporate tax rates and end corporate inversion and profit shifting tax avoidance by taxing the income of unitary business groups, whether domestic or foreign, based upon proportion of global sales in the US.

Grow Domestic Supply Chains

  1. Preserve and develop domestic manufacturing and agricultural supply chains to maximize value added production in the US.
  2. Develop, build and maintain a world-class land, water, air, communications and energy infrastructure.
  3. Safeguard our military strength and national security by insuring that critical technologies, weapons & IT components are developed and manufactured in America by American controlled companies.
  4. Develop, commercialize and retain strategic and economically significant advanced technology and grow their manufacturing supply chains in the US.
  5. Increase public support for, and incentives for private investment in, basic and applied research, infra-technologies and new product and process technologies.
  6. Continually raise the competitiveness of American workers by improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education available at all levels, systematically enhance lifelong learning for existing workers, and fostering a national system of apprenticeship and paid internships through collaborative public-private endeavors that are connected to actual opportunities in the labor market.
  7. Raise the competitiveness of small and medium sized domestic enterprises by increasing long-term private sector financing, the sharing of research on common issues and the diffusion of new technologies and production methods.
  8. Preserve our right to adopt and enforce domestic policies that insure the quality of our food and goods, and protect the health, safety and general welfare of our citizens without restrictions from international trade agreements.
  9. Ensure that domestic manufacturing and agriculture benefit fully from an expanded supply of low cost US produced energy”

Anyone involved in efforts to revitalize American manufacturing already has a bookshelf full of books, studies, and reports containing recommendations on a national manufacturing strategy. My book, Can American Manufacturing Be Saved? Why we should and how we can has a chapter on “How Can We Save American Manufacturing?” that contains a summary of the recommendations of many organizations as well as my own recommendations, which I incorporate into articles and presentations whenever possible. As chair of the California chapter of CPA, I plan to incorporate this competitiveness strategy into future articles and presentations whenever possible.

The brilliance of CPA’s strategy is that it is not limited to manufacturing and is not a “to do list” of actions to take. The Competitiveness Strategy will work best when pursued as a whole. The three objectives are interrelated because, for example, we cannot balance trade without growing domestic supply chains to produce more, and add more value in the U. S. We cannot grow domestic supply chains unless we neutralize foreign mercantilism (trade cheating) that offshores otherwise competitive industries that we started and developed in the U. S. We cannot address foreign mercantilism without the guidance of a balanced trade objective.

Businesses must have a strategic plan to start and grow. This strategic plan guides the business with regard to product development, finance, marketing, production, procurement, etc. Many other countries have an economic strategy to grow their economy. A country’s strategy guides their economic, fiscal, trade, innovation, finance and monetary policy, so that they all work together to enhance their competitiveness as a nation.

The United States has no comprehensive strategy ? just a hodgepodge of laws and rules. Trade negotiators have had no strategic plan to guide them, and neither do the administrative agencies relevant to manufacturing, agricultural, and use of natural resources. The United States needs a comprehensive competitiveness strategy that clearly expresses exactly what we want to achieve for our country… not for an industry or special interest… but our country as a whole.

We do not have to “keep reinventing the wheel.” It is time for our leaders to “stop fiddling while Rome burns” and show some real leadership. Action, not lip service is what we need now!

How we could Create Jobs while Reducing the Trade Deficit and National Debt

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

There are numerous ideas and recommendations on how we could create jobs but most job creation programs proposed involve either increased government spending or reductions in income or employment taxes at a time of soaring budget deficits and decreased government revenue. Other recommendations would require legislation to change policies on taxation, regulation, or trade that may be difficult to accomplish. The recommendations in this article focus on what could be done the fastest and most economically to create the most jobs while reducing our trade deficit and national debt.

Manufacturing is the foundation of the U. S. economy and the engine of economic growth. It has a higher multiplier effect than service jobs. Each manufacturing job creates an average of three to four other supporting jobs. So, if we focus on creating manufacturing jobs, we would be able to reduce the trade deficit and national debt at the same time.

The combined effects of an increasing trade deficit with China and other countries, as well as American manufacturers choosing to “offshore” manufacturing, has resulted in the loss of 5.7 million manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. If we calculate the multiplier effect, we have actually lost upwards of 17 to 22 million jobs, meaning that we have fewer taxpayers and more consumers of tax revenue in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, and Medicaid.

In 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with China reached a new record of $315 billion. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the trade deficit with China cost 2.7 million U.S. jobs from 2001-2011. The Department of Commerce estimates that each $1 billion in trade deficit translates to about 13,000 lost jobs, so the $738 billion trade deficit in goods for 2012 cost upwards of 9,599,200 jobs.

What Congress Could Do

First, Congress should enact legislation that addresses China’s currency manipulation. Most economists believe that China’s currency is undervalued by 30-40% so their products may be cheaper than American products on that basis alone. To address China’s currency manipulation and provide a means for American companies to petition for countervailing duties, the Senate passed S. 1619 in 2011, but GOP leadership prevented the corresponding bill in the House, H. R. 639, from being brought up for a vote, even though it had bi-partisan support with 231 co-sponsors. On March 20, 2013, Sander Levin (D-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Mo Brooks (R-AL) introduced the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act in the House and a corresponding bill will be introduced in the Senate.

Second, Congress should strengthen and tighten procurement regulations to enforce “buying American” for all government agencies and not just the Department of Defense. All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first opportunity at procurement contracts. New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction. No federal, state, or local government dollars should be spent buying materials, equipment, supplies, and workers from China.

My other recommendations for creating jobs are based on improving the competitiveness of American companies by improving the business climate of the United States so that there is less incentive for American manufacturing companies to outsource manufacturing offshore or build plants in foreign countries. The following proposed legislation would also prevent corporations from avoiding paying corporate income taxes:

  • Reduce corporate taxes to 25 percent
  • Make capital gains tax of 15 percent permanent
  • Increase and make permanent the R&D tax credit
  • Eliminate the estate tax (also called the Death Tax)
  • Improve intellectual property rights protection and increase criminal prosecution
  • Prevent sale of strategic U.S.-owned companies to foreign-owned companies
  • Enact legislation to prevent corporations from avoiding the U.S. income tax by reincorporating in a foreign country

It is also critical that we not approve any new Free Trade Agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Partnership that are currently proposed. The U.S. has a trade deficit with every one of its trading partners from NAFTA forward, so Free Trade Agreements have hurt more than helped the U.S. economy.

What States and Regions Could Do

State and local government can work in partnership with economic development agencies, universities, trade associations, and non-profit organizations to facilitate the growth and success of startup manufacturing companies in a variety of means:

Improve the Business Climate – Each state should take an honest look at the business climate they provide businesses, but especially manufacturers since they provide more jobs than any other economic sector. The goal should be to facilitate the startup and success of manufacturers to create more jobs. I recommend the following actions:

  • Reduce corporate and individual taxes to as low a rate as possible
  • Increase R&D tax credit generosity and make the R&D tax credit permanent
  • Institute an investment tax credit on purchases of new capital equipment and software
  • Eliminate burdensome or onerous statutory and environmental regulations

Establish or Support Existing Business Incubation Programs, such as those provided by the members of the National Business Incubation Alliance. Business incubators provide a positive sharing-type environment for creative entrepreneurship, often offering counseling and peer review services, as well as shared office or laboratory facilities, and a generally strong bias toward growth and innovation.

Facilitate Returning Manufacturing to America – The Reshoring Initiative,  founded by Harry Moser in 2010, has a  mission to bring good, well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States by assisting companies to more accurately assess their total cost of offshoring, and shift collective thinking from “offshoring is cheaper” to “local reduces the total cost of ownership.” The top reasons for U. S. to reshore are:

  • Brings jobs back to the U.S.
  • Helps balance U.S., state and local budgets
  • Motivates recruits to enter the skilled manufacturing workforce
  • Strengthens the defense industrial base

According to Mr. Moser, the Initiative has documented case studies of companies reshoring showing that “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.”

State and/or local government could facilitate “reshoring” for manufacturers in their region by conducting Reshoring Initiative conferences to teach participants the concept of Total Cost of Ownership, how to use Mr. Moser’s free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™, and help them connect with local suppliers.

Establish Enterprise Zones and/or Free Trade Zones: Enterprise Zones provide special advantages or benefits to companies in these zones, such as:

  • Hiring Credits – Firms can earn state tax credits for each qualified employee hired (California’s is $37,440)
  • Up to 100% Net Operating Loss (NOL) carry-forward for up to 15 years under most circumstances.
  • Sales tax credits on purchases of up to $20 million per year of qualified machinery and machinery parts;
  • Up-front expensing of certain depreciable property
  • Apply unused tax credits to future tax years
  • Companies can earn preference points on state contracts.

States located on international borders could also establish Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs), which are sites in or near a U.S. Customs port of entry where foreign and domestic goods are considered to be in international trade. Goods can be brought into the zones without formal Customs entry or without incurring Customs duties/excise taxes until they are imported into the U. S. FTZs are intended to promote U.S. participation in trade and commerce by eliminating or reducing the unintended costs associated with U.S. trade laws

What Individuals Could Do

There are many things we could do as individuals to create jobs and reduce our trade deficits and national debt. You may feel that there is nothing you can do as an individual, but it’s not true! American activist and author, Sonia Johnson said, “We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”

If you are an inventor ready to get a patent or license agreement for your product, select American companies to make parts and assemblies for your product as much as possible. There are some electronic components that are no longer made in the U. S., so it may not be possible to source all of the component parts with American companies. There are many hidden costs to doing business offshore, so in the long run, you may not save as much money as you expect by sourcing your product offshore. The cost savings is not worth the danger of having your Intellectual Property stolen by a foreign company that will use it to make a copycat or counterfeit product sold at a lower price.

If you are an entrepreneur starting a company, find a niche product for which customers will be willing to pay more for a “Made in USA” product. Plan to sell your product on the basis of its “distinct competitive advantage” rather than on the basis of lowest price. Select your suppliers from American companies as this will create jobs for other Americans.

If you are the owner of an existing manufacturing company, then conduct a Total Cost of Ownership analysis for your bill of materials to see if you could “reshore” some or all of the items to be made in the United States. You can use the free TCO worksheet estimator to conduct your analysis available from the Reshoring Initiative at www.reshorenow.org. Also, you could choose to keep R&D in the United States or bring it back to the United States if you have sourced it offshore.

If enough manufacturing is “reshored” from China, we would drastically reduce our over $700 billion trade deficit in goods. We could create as many as three million manufacturing jobs, which would, in turn, create 9 – 12 million total jobs, bringing our unemployment down to 4 percent.

You may not realize it, but you have tremendous power as a consumer. Even large corporations pay attention to trends in consumer buying, and there is beginning to be a trend to buy ‘Made in USA” products. As a result, on January 15, 2013, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced they will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next 10 years.

U.S. voters supported Buy America policies by a 12-to-1 margin according to a survey of 1,200 likely general election voters conducted between June 28 and July 2, 2012 by the Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research. The overwhelming support has grown since prior iterations of the same poll – Buy America received an 11-to-1 margin of support in 2011 and a 5-to-1 margin in 2010. A survey by Perception Services International of 1400 consumers in July 2012, found that 76% were more likely to buy a U.S. product and 57% were less likely to buy a Chinese product.

As a consumer, you should pay attention to the country of origin labels when they shop and buy “Made in USA” products whenever possible. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and ask the store owner or manager to carry more “Made in USA” products. If you buy products online, there are now a plethora of online sources dedicated to selling only “Made in USA” products. Each time you choose to buy an American-made product, you help save or create an American job.

In his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity, Alan Uke, recommends Country of Origin labeling for all manufactured products that “puts control in the hands of American consumers to make powerful buying choices to boost our economy and create jobs,” as well as reduce our trade deficit. The labels would be similar to the labels on autos, listing the percent of content by country of all of the major components of the product. This Country of Origin labeling would enable American consumers to make the decision to buy products that have most of their content “made in USA.”

If every American would make the decision to buy American products and avoid imports as much as possible, we could make a real difference in our nation’s economy. For example, if 200 million Americans bought $20 worth of American products instead of Chinese, it would reduce our trade imbalance with China by four billion dollars. During the ABC World News series called “Made in America,” Diane Sawyer has repeatedly said, “If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U. S.-made goods, it would create almost 10,000 new jobs in this country.”

In conclusion, if we want to create more jobs, reduce our trade deficit and national debt, we must support our manufacturing industry so that it could once again be the economic engine for economic growth. Following the suggestions in this article could make the “Great American Job Engine” roar once again.

Congress Hasn’t Averted the Real Fiscal Cliff

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The “kick the can” legislation that passed in the wee hours of January 1st didn’t address the real economic issues threatening a fiscal cliff for the United States ? the massive trade deficit and the rapidly escalating national debt. This article will show how these two economic issues are interrelated.

The trade deficit grew from a low of $91 million in 1969 to a peak of $698.3 billion in 2008, dropping down to$379 billion in 2009 due to the worldwide recession before climbing back up to $559.8 billion in 2011. Final figures for 2012 are not available yet, but the trade deficit through the first 11 months of 2012 is running at an annual rate of $546.6 billion.

Our trade deficit with China grew from only $6 million in 1985 to a high of $295.4 billion in 2011, after it had dropped down to $226.8 billion in 2009 during the recession. China’s portion of America’s trade deficit has nearly tripled ? from 22 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2009 and 52.7 percent in 2011. In the 11 years since China joined the WTO, the U.S. trade deficit with China has grown by 330 percent.

The national debt has grown from $5.6 trillion in 2000 to $16.4 trillion on January 12th. As of July 2012, $5.3 trillion or approximately 48% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were China and Japan at just over $1.1 trillion each.

“The estimated population of the United States is 314,243,893 so each citizen’s share of this debt is $52,304.77. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $3.84 billion per day since September 28, 2007!”

As you can see, the debt accelerated after the economic collapse in the fall of 2008 and has continued to accelerate since because of the recession, automatic increases in unemployment benefits, food stamps, and social security payments for early retirement, as well as stimulus spending. The all-time record of increasing the debt by $1.1 trillion was set by President Bush in 100 days between July 30 and Nov 9, 2008 to avert the economic collapse of major banks and Wall Street companies. “Recessions cut tax revenues—in this case, dramatically, which accounts for nearly half of the deficit.”

According to Tom Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, “The single biggest threat to our economic future … is our exploding national debt, driven by runaway deficit spending, changing demographics and unsustainable entitlements,” he said in his annual “State of American Business” address.

The reason why our massive trade deficit and escalating national debt are interrelated is that they share a common factor:  the American manufacturing industry and the jobs it generates or the jobs it has lost.

According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report, the U. S lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs in the decade of 2000 to 2010, more than the total number of manufacturing jobs than the rate of loss in the Great Depression (33.1 % vs. 30.9%). Manufacturing jobs now only make up 9% of the American workforce, down from about 14% in 2000. Two million manufacturing jobs were lost in the Great Recession, adding to the 3.7 million we had already lost. Less than 10% have returned since the end of the recession. The report concludes:

  • A large share of manufacturing jobs was lost in the last decade because the United States lost its competitive edge for manufacturing. It was due to a failure of U.S. policy, not superior productivity.
  • The loss was cataclysmic and unprecedented, and it continues to severely impact the overall U.S. economy.
  • Regaining U.S. manufacturing competitiveness to the point where America has balanced its trade in manufacturing products is critical to restoring U.S. economic vibrancy.
  • Regaining manufacturing competitiveness will create millions of higher-than-average-wage manufacturing jobs, as well as an even greater number of jobs from the multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy.
  • The United States can restore manufacturing competitiveness and balance manufacturing goods trade within less than a decade if it adopts the right set of policies in what can be termed the “four T’s” (tax, trade, talent, and technology).

The Economic Policy Institute briefing paper, “The China Toll,” written by Robert Scott focuses on the effects of our trade deficit with China. He wrote, “Growing U.S. trade deficit with China cost more than 2.7 million jobs between 2001 and 2011, with job losses in every state.”

“Between 2001 and 2011, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, over 2.1 million of which (76.9 percent) were in manufacturing. These lost manufacturing jobs account for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between 2001 and 2011.”

The growing trade deficit with China has been a prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment. When you take into account the multiplier effect of manufacturing jobs creating three to four other jobs, the U. S. has lost six to eight million jobs as a result of the trade deficit with China alone. The Department of Commerce estimates that each $1 billion in trade deficit translates to about 13,000 lost jobs, so the $559.8 billion in the total trade deficit for 2011 represents a loss of 7,277,400 jobs. This explains why we have had a virtually jobless recovery since the end of the recession and why the unemployment rate has stayed high for so long.

The average manufacturing job nationwide pays about $40,000 per year ($20/hour). According to the 2012 federal tax table, a person making that amount of money would pay about $4,000 to $5,000 per year in taxes, depending on whether they are single or have one dependent. Without doing the complicated math to calculate the number of lost manufacturing jobs each year times the taxes those workers would have paid, you can see that the result could be trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue since the year 2000.

Adding this lost tax revenue to the cost of an unemployed worker in the form of unemployment benefits (about $15,000 year for a $40,000/year job) and possibly food stamps, you can understand the major cause of why our national debt has escalated so dramatically in the last ten years. We could raise income taxes to the highest rates of European countries such as Sweden (75%) and still not be able to pay down our national debt. The solution is not raising taxes, it is creating more tax payers, especially those employed in the higher paying jobs of the manufacturing industry. Our trade policies that result in such huge trade deficits and loss of manufacturing jobs have transformed taxpayers into tax consumers.

Because of our trade deficit with China and our national debt, we are essentially writing two checks to China every month:  one to pay for the cost of the imports we buy and the other to pay for the cost of borrowing money from China to pay for the cost of running our government.  By maintaining this trade deficit, we are sending our tax revenue to China; then, we borrow a portion of it back to pay our expenses. This is unsustainable!

We are at a cross roads in our country. We must change our tax, trade, and regulatory policies to rebuild our manufacturing industry to increase the number of taxpayers if we ever want to pay down our national debt, reduce our unemployment rates, and avoid economic collapse.

 

 

 

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

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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