WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Continue reading “US TRADE GAP WIDENS TO $45.7 BILLION IN JANUARY”
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. Continue reading “Is a Crackdown on Chinese Imports Looming Ahead?”
Meet the Chinese tilapia, a bland food product that grows fast and sells cheap. Environmentalists hate it, but Americans keep ordering more.
(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.
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. Continue reading “FDA Says Brazil’s Orange Juice Is Safe, But Still Illegal”
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. Continue reading “How to Save U.S. Manufacturing Jobs”
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.