Why ‘Made in America’ Is Stitched Into the Law, but Not the Uniforms

More Transportation Security Administration uniforms have been made in Mexico in recent years than in the United States, despite rules requiring the Department of Homeland Security to “buy American.”CreditDavid Mcnew/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s push to “buy American” has been a key initiative of his administration, and Mr. Trump speaks frequently about ensuring that the federal government is buying American products.

So it might come as a surprise that the uniforms of those Secret Service agents that protect and surround him every day are probably made outside the United States, most likely in Mexico.

The United States government has several laws on the books that require the military and other national security agencies to buy from American sources, when possible. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows how a primary rule covering the Department of Homeland Security, called the Kissell Amendment, has been undercut by a slew of bureaucratic restrictions and obligations required by international trade agreements.

As a result, over roughly the past three years, more Secret Service uniforms have been made in Mexico than in any other country — including the United States. The same goes for uniforms procured for Transportation Security Administration workers. The majority of uniforms for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are also made outside the United States, in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Cambodia.

“It really doesn’t have much impact at all,” Kimberly Gianopoulos, the director of the Government Accountability Office’s international affairs and trade team, said of the Kissell Amendment.

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US TRADE GAP WIDENS TO $45.7 BILLION IN JANUARY

(AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Read more of this post

Is a Crackdown on Chinese Imports Looming Ahead?

Is a Crackdown on Chinese Imports Looming Ahead?

US concerns regarding unfair trade practices from China are on the rise. IBISWorld examines the reasons behind the protectionist sentiment and the potential impact on Chinese imports. Read more of this post

From China, The Future of Fish

Meet the Chinese tilapia, a bland food product that grows fast and sells cheap. Environmentalists hate it, but Americans keep ordering more.

By Bruce Einhorn

(Fixes reference to U.S. food-service market in the 27th paragraph.)

At the end of a wooden pier, a squat red machine the size of a dishwasher hums along with the din of nearby cicadas. The fish-feeder is tossing grain pellets into one of Chen Haiping’s nine fish ponds, each as long as a football field, in the town of Shuixi, in China’s Guangdong province. It’s breakfast time, and thousands of tilapia are thrashing their tails and sticking their mouths into the air to get some of the soy-and-corn mixture. Chen, a 32-year-old former duck farmer with a wispy mustache, has been running this farm for eight years.

Before the tilapia, these ponds were filled with shrimp, which the Chinese like. They aren’t big fans of tilapia, a foreign fish; the name in Chinese,luofeiyu, refers to tilapia’s origins in Africa. It doesn’t have much flavor, and it doesn’t grow big enough to put in the middle of the table at a family meal. Americans, however, can’t get enough of Chinese-raised tilapia, so tilapia it is. The fish, Chen notes, are hardier and don’t require as much work. “Shrimp can die much more easily,” says Chen, who wears a wide-brimmed straw hat to protect himself from the 95-degree heat.

Despite environmental warnings about Chinese-raised tilapia from watchdog groups such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which publishes an influential best choices/avoid list of seafood and rates Chinese-raised tilapia as “avoid,” U.S. consumption keeps rising. In 2009 the U.S. imported 404 million pounds of tilapia, up from 298 million in 2005. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) imports nearly 200 shipping containers, or 8.8 million pounds, every month, although they will not say how much comes from China. (The company declined to comment.) Domestic fish farmers can’t come close to meeting demand. Although there are tilapia farms in the U.S., the fish does better in tropical climates, so most of it comes from Asia or Latin America.

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FDA Says Brazil’s Orange Juice Is Safe, But Still Illegal

 

Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images Oranges for sale at a market in Rio de Janeiro.

Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images Oranges for sale at a market in Rio de Janeiro.

NPR      by DAN CHARLES  February 22, 2012

If you happen to notice sometime later this year that you’re suddenly paying a lot more for orange juice, you can blame America’s food safety authorities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after several weeks of deliberation, has blocked imports of frozen, concentrated orange juice from Brazil, probably for the next 18 months or so, even though the agency says the juice is perfectly safe.

The FDA’s explanation is that its hands are legally tied. Its tests show that practically all concentrated juice from Brazil currently contains traces of the fungicide carbendazim, first detected in December by Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid juices. The amounts are small — so small that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says no consumers should be concerned.

The problem is, carbendazim has not been used on oranges in the U.S. in recent years, and the legal permission to use it on that crop has lapsed. As a result, there’s not a legal “tolerance” for residues of this pesticide in orange products. Read more of this post

How to Save U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

By Howard Wial @CNNMoney February 23, 2012: 5:34 AM ET

Howard Wial is a fellow for the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

At first glance, manufacturing jobs would appear to be a dying breed.

The United States lost 6 million manufacturing jobs between early 2001 and late 2009. And despite small gains during the last two years, the trend in manufacturing employment for the last 30 years has been downward.

That has led some to argue that long-term job loss in the industry is inevitable. But our research shows otherwise.

There are two common versions of the “inevitability” argument. One holds that U.S. manufacturing wages are too high to be internationally competitive. The other maintains that manufacturing job losses are the result of productivity growth. Both arguments are wrong. Read more of this post

How To Invest For Jobs Coming Back To U.S.

Brian Sozzi, Contributor   2/16/2012

The grand theme I want to put on the table is the concept of onshoring, sometimes called reshoring, which is the bringing back of U.S. jobs from overseas supply chains.

U.S. businesses have started to realize that while workers in far away lands garner miniscule wages compared to their U.S. counterparts, having operations outside of the country can be a strategic disadvantage.  The speed and structure in which information is consumed has caused U.S. consumers to demand top quality products and to want to buy them whenever they please.

Having a manufacturing plant domestically aids in the quicker movement of goods from design table to sales floor.  Furniture maker Ethan Allen is great example of a manufacturer producing most of its products in the U.S. and doing customization for clients, setting itself apart from price-point focused competitors.

Corporate managers are simply getting over their infatuation with cheap international labor and analyzing the total costs of doing business in the U.S. compared to say, China or India.

There is a dollop of icing on the cake here as well.  The topic of focusing on onshoring to boost employment levels seems to be an area of agreement between bickering Republicans and Democrats.  Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, for example, wants to zero out the U.S. corporate tax for manufacturers.

Anytime the major political parties agree on anything, even the slight thing, it’s cause to sit up and take notice from an investment standpoint.  The Donkeys and Elephants may be a little apart on how to precisely shepherd along the corporate onshoring interest, but at least they are talking the same language.  It’s high time they do find common ground if the following is to be reversed:

  • Manufacturing employment has fallen by approximately 37% since 1980.
  • According to a survey done by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, some 600,000 manufacturing jobs are currently unfilled due to a mismatch between job requirements and experience.

I have read a fair number of columns bantering about onshoring.  Is it overhyped?  Do we really need more jobs in the service sector U.S. economy?  The debates are almost endless.  Unfortunately, though, I have failed to stumble upon investment strategies to profit from onshoring, which has already begun to a certain extent, and could likely gain steam in the years ahead.

Buy-and-hold investors, this should be right in your wheelhouse: a highly probable future event to build positions around in companies with durable competitive advantages.

A few names that come to mind:

  • Waste Management: Owns 260 plus landfills and is the largest waste management business in the U.S.  More manufacturing production means more waste to be piled into the company’s green bins.
  • ADP: Benefits in two manners.  First, workers are hired to run new domestic manufacturing plants (hopefully by people that used the downturn to attain new technological skills).  Second, there should be a trickle down effect in the overall employment sector via a ramp in higher paying manufacturing jobs.
  • Dunkin Brands: “America Runs on Dunkin” as the brand’s slogan goes.  The company’s moat is not as wide as an ADP or Waste Management, but more U.S. manufacturers should mean more egg sandwiches (which Starbucks does not do superbly) and coffee.  Store penetration is increasing in areas of the country that are manufacturing oriented.

This Column Was 100% Made in America

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

By   Published: February 15, 2012

BLUE-COLLAR workers in fields like manufacturing — particularly when they make products on American soil — are again becoming a favorite subject for white-collar workers on Madison Avenue.

The trend was born of the economic worries that followed the financial crisis in 2008. Recently, it is gaining steam — appropriate, since the ads often use blasts of steam to signal something is being built — with proposals in Washington to offer incentives to encourage the location or relocation of factories in the United States.

“We continue to see very heavy emotional response to anything that would leverage against the bad economy,” said Robert Passikoff, president at Brand Keys, a brand and customer-loyalty consulting company in New York. Read more of this post

Obama Takes Fresh Aim at China, Touts “Insourcing”

 

ReutersBy Laura MacInnis | Reuters

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – President Barack Obama kept up his attack on Chinese trade practices during a campaign-style visit on Wednesday to a Midwest factory, where his call to bring jobs back home was intended to resonate with voters in an election year.

The day after meeting China’s leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping, at the White House, Obama cited America’s chief rival a number of times in a speech to promote the potential of “insourcing” jobs back to America from overseas.

“I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules,” he told workers at Master Lock, a company he lauded in his State of the Union address last month for having moved back about 100 union jobs from China since mid-2010.

“That’s why I directed my administration to create a Trade Enforcement Unit with one job: investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China,” he said in prepared remarks.

Obama took a firm line over trade on Tuesday during his Oval Office meeting with Xi, who is in line to assume the Chinese presidency in March 2013.

This tough stance should appeal to voters in election battleground states like Wisconsin, where Beijing is often blamed for killing American jobs.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, a former private equity executive, accuses Obama of being too soft on China and lacking the executive or other leadership experience to steer the U.S. economy toward lasting recovery.

Master Lock, a unit of Fortune Brands Home & Security, is the world’s largest manufacturer of padlocks and related products to secure homes, cars and bicycles. Its story is a positive one for Obama, who must tout his economic leadership to secure another White House term.

The firm says its Milwaukee plant is running at full capacity for the first time in 15 years – an example the White House is eager to replicate as the November 6 election nears.

“They’re deciding that if the cost of doing business here is no longer much different than the cost of doing business in countries like China, they’d rather place their bets on America,” said Obama.

It was his first stop in a three day campaign-style swing when the Democrat will raise funds in California and stop at aircraft manufacturer Boeing in Washington state.

How to cope with a rising China – and compete against cheap Chinese exports – is one of the toughest challenges for Obama to navigate as the election approaches, particularly as opinion polls showing rising U.S. voter frustration with the Asian economic powerhouse.

(Reporting By Laura MacInnis; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman)

Can Manufacturing Jobs Come Back? What We Should Learn From Apple and Foxconn

business
The Huffington Post

David Paul – President, Fiscal Strategies Group  –  Posted: 02/13/2012 8:30 am

Apple aficionados suffered a blow a couple of weeks ago. All of those beautiful products, it turns out, are the product of an industrial complex that is nothing if not one step removed from slave labor.

But of course there is nothing new here. Walmart has long prospered as a company that found ways to drive down the cost of stuff that Americans want. And China has long been the place where companies to go to drive down cost.

For several decades, dating back to the post World War II years, relatively unfettered access to the American consumer has been the means for pulling Asian workers out of deep poverty. Japan emerged as an industrial colossus under the tutelage of Edward Deming. The Asian tigers came next. Vietnam and Sri Lanka have nibbled around the edges, while China embraced the export-led economic development model under Deng Xiaoping.

While Apple users have been beating their breasts over the revelations of labor conditions and suicides that sullied their glass screens, the truth is that Foxconn is just the most recent incarnation of outsourced manufacturing plants — textiles and Nike shoes come to mind — where working conditions are below American standards. Read more of this post

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