How Ending Currency Manipulation Will Help Manufacturers

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Many American economists and policymakers believe that currency manipulation by U.S. trading partners such as Japan and Singapore – and especially China – creates a drag on the U.S. economy and depresses the country’s manufacturing sector.

Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation by U.S. trading partners such as Japan and Singapore – and especially China – creates a drag on the U.S. economy and depresses the country’s manufacturing sector.

Currency manipulation involves artificially reducing the value of a country’s own currency, in effect providing a subsidy for national exports. Currency manipulators often buy U.S. treasury bonds to prevent their own currencies from strengthening. In the case of China, the country’s trade with the U.S. brings in an excess of U.S. dollars and would normally create a shortage of yuans. But to avoid the yuan’s appreciation and prop up its manufacturing sector, China buys up U.S. treasuries to keep the yuan out of currency exchange markets, thus maintaining an artificially low value.

About one out of every six U.S. private-sector jobs is in manufacturing, 17.2 million in total, according to the National Association of Manufacturers(NAM). However, manufacturing dominates when it comes to U.S. trade goods, accounting for 86 percent of exports in 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) says. So a U.S. trade deficit, exacerbated by currency manipulation, has a disproportionately negative effect on the manufacturing sector.

Robert E. Scott, Helen Jorgensen, and Doug Hall of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explain that reviving the crucial U.S. manufacturing sector “requires eliminating a jobs-destroying U.S. trade deficit in goods,” in large part by ending currency manipulation. Currency manipulation, the group says, “distorts international trade flows by artificially lowering the cost of U.S. imports and raising the cost of U.S. exports,” thereby displacing American manufacturing jobs.

Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade goods deficit by at least $190 billion and as much as $400 billion over three years, allowing the U.S. to “reap enormous benefits” without any increase in federal spending or taxation. This would reduce U.S. unemployment by 1 to 2.1 percentage points and create between 2.2 million and 4.7 million jobs; between 620,000 and 1.3 million of those jobs would be in manufacturing. In addition, U.S. GDP would increase between 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent.

The Group of Seven (G7) top industrial nations is concerned that continued currency manipulation is creating dangerous instability in the global economy. The organization, which is comprised of the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.K., recently saidits members are committed to market-determined exchange rates and “will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments.”

The G7 affirmed that they “will not target exchange rates” – meaning they themselves refuse to be involved in currency manipulation. “We are agreed that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability,” the group declared.

Artificially lowering a country’s exchange rate can make its exports cheaper and promote growth internally, but that only causes problems for other countries because one currency can fall only if another rises. This imbalance, the EPI warns, “could spark a ‘currency war’ – a destabilizing battle where countries compete against one another to get the lowest exchange rate.” This scenario “conjures up images of the 1930s, when countries pursued tit-for-tat devaluations in order to get an edge… the outcome was to decimate global trade, accentuate the depression, and sow the seeds for World War II,” according to the institute.

 

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), argued that policymakers need to act now to prevent further harm from unfair trade practices.

“Congress is obsessed with the wrong deficit,” Paul said. “To grow jobs and boost the economy, we must eliminate the trade deficit. Ending currency manipulation will get us part of the way there, but we also need a smart manufacturing policy, one that focuses on innovation, public investment, skills, and trade enforcement.”

According to the EPI report, any U.S president could end currency manipulation with a stroke of the pen: “The president could simply declare that the United States will no longer sell Treasury bills and other government assets to China and other countries that refuse to allow the United States to purchase their government assets… Refusing to sell assets to currency manipulators would eliminate the principal tool used by foreign central banks to manipulate their currencies: purchases of Treasury bills and other government securities…”

Olli Rehn, top monetary affairs official for the European Commission (EC), told the Associated Press that joint governmental efforts are needed to fight the adverse effects of “excess volatility and disorderly movements” in exchange rates. “That’s why we need to lean on active international policy coordination in order to prevent a wave of competitive devaluations.”

 

 

Source: http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/2013/02/26/how-ending-currency-manipulation-will-help-manufacturers/

Barron’s Made in America: The Next Boom

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By: KOPIN TAN Barron’s JANUARY 2013

Barron's Made in America

Photo: Barron’s John Kuczala

Cheap natural gas and increasingly competitive labor costs are bringing factories and jobs back to the U.S. Eight ways to win.

 As the only industrialized superpower not decimated by World War II, the United States once made nearly 40% of the planet’s goods. These days, that number has shrunk to 18%. We make American Girl dolls in China, Levi’s jeans in Mexico, and enough movies in Vancouver to nickname it Hollywood North.

After decades of outsourcing, however, the U.S. is quietly enjoying a manufacturing revival, and companies like Apple (ticker: AAPL), Caterpillar (CAT), Ford Motor (F),General Electric (GE), and Whirlpool (WHR) are making more of their goods on American soil again. It isn’t just U.S. companies that are drawn to our cheap energy, weak dollar, and stagnant wages. Samsung Electronics (005930.Korea) plans a $4 billion semiconductor plant in Texas, Airbus SAS is building a factory in Alabama, and Toyota (TM) wants to export minivans made in Indiana to Asia.
The Rust Belt owes its new shine to many factors, including rising wages and industrial-land costs in Asia. But none is bigger than the U.S. energy boom. Thanks to a head start in extracting oil and gas from shales, North America now produces far more natural gas than any other continent. Unlike oil, gas isn’t easily transported across oceans, and a result is some of the world’s cheapest energy within our reach: Natural gas here costs $3.55 per million British thermal units, versus roughly $12 in Europe and $16 in Japan. Cheap energy not only reduces our trade deficit and our addiction to Middle East oil, it also makes our factories more competitive globally — a boon for a country that had gone from exporting American goods to exporting American jobs.The biggest beneficiaries are energy-guzzling companies like chemical producers and steelmakers, and Barron’s has identified eight stocks that should prosper in our gas-fueled manufacturing upswing. They are Southwestern Energy, LyondellBasell Industries, Nucor, Dover, Calpine, CF Industries, Williams, and Union Pacific. But any glow will also rub off on regional lenders, home builders, and local small businesses. “The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” declares Nancy Lazar, co-head of the New York research firm International Strategy & Investment. “And Middle America is my favorite emerging market.”

Our energy boom got cracking with fracking, a controversial process in which pressurized fluids are pumped through rock formations, often a mile or more under the ground, to extract oil and gas. Critics condemn fracking, which they contend causes environmental harm, but even they agree that it’s led to an abundance of cheap gas. Over the past six years, U.S. production of petroleum and natural gas has jumped from 15 million barrels of oil-equivalent a day to 20.1 million, a 20-year high. Over the same period, imports have fallen from 14 million barrels a day to below eight million, a 25-year low.

It’s a sign of the times: Graduates from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology — acceptance rate: 88%; mascot: Grubby the Miner — now command a median starting salary 16% higher than that of Yalies.

By 2020, the U.S. will become the world’s biggest oil producer, says the International Energy Agency. By 2025, North America will be a net energy exporter, predicts ExxonMobil (XOM).

That edge should remain ours for decades. “It isn’t just the huge reserves we have underground,” says Tim Parker, who manages T. Rowe Price’s natural-resource stock portfolios. “No one else has our predictable cocktail of infrastructure already in place, know-how, a relative abundance of water, and a favorable royalty regime that give landowners a stake in the exploration game.” Europe, for instance, is averse to fracking and has little infrastructure; Japan has hardly any shales; and while China has vast reserves, only shales nudging the Yangtze River have enough water for fracking.

Of course, an especially frigid winter could send gas prices soaring, but any such spike should be temporary. Given our expanding reserves and record inventory, commodity strategists expect U.S. natural gas to stay between $3 and $5 per million BTUs for years — well below prices abroad.

CHEAP GAS ISN’T THE ONLY booster in our tank. In the decade since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, that nation has become Earth’s low-cost factory. But wages and benefits there are rising 15% to 20% a year, while they’re stagnant here. Despite Beijing’s efforts to hold it down, the yuan has gained 33% against the dollar since 2005. Industrial land averages $10.22 a square foot across China, but rises to $11.15 in the coastal city of Ningbo and $21 in Shenzhen — compared with $1.30 to $4.65 in Tennessee and North Carolina. “Within five years, the total cost of producing many products will be only about 10% to 15% less in Chinese coastal cities than in parts of the U.S. where factories are likely to be built,” says Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. Add duties and shipping, and the cost gap shrinks further.

Read more of this post

How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

iPhone - People flooded Foxconn Technology with résumés at a 2010 job fair in Henan Province China NYT   1-22-12

iPhone - People flooded Foxconn Technology with résumés at a 2010 job fair in Henan Province, China.

By NYT  and   Published: Jan. 21, 2012

When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke,President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest. Read more of this post

Americas Dirty War Against Manufacturing (Part 1): Carl Pope

Illustration by Tomi Um

Illustration by Tomi Um

“I’d love to make this product in America. But I’m afraid I won’t be able to.”

My host, a NASA engineer turned Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has just conducted a fascinating tour of his new clean-energy bench-scale test facility. It’s one of the Valley’s hottest clean-technology startups. And he’s already thinking of going abroad.

“Wages?” I ask.

His dark eyebrows arch as if I were clueless, then he explains the reality of running a fab — an electronics fabrication factory. “Wages have nothing to do with it. The total wage burden in a fab is 10 percent. When I move a fab to Asia, I might lose 10 percent of my product just in theft.”

I’m startled. “So what is it?”

“Everything else. Taxes, infrastructure, workforce training, permits, health care. The last company that proposed a fab on Long Island went to Taiwan because they were told that in a drought their water supply would be in the queue after the golf courses.”

So begins my education on the hollowing-out of the American economy, which might be titled: “It’s not the wages, stupid.”

Manufacturing’s share of U.S. employment peaked in 1979 and has since fallen by almost half. Although manufacturing has been a relative bright spot in the dismal economy of the past couple of years, in the last decade, the U.S. lost a third of its manufacturing jobs, with the damage rippling far beyond that base to erode millions of jobs that are dependent on it. Read more of this post

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