North American Manufacturing

By June 18, 2008General

There are lots of urban legends we encounter and the one that seems most enduring is that nothing is made in America anymore.  Too many people refuse to see the reality that is shown in government data:  manufacturing output in the United States is at an all time high.  More is made here now than ever before.  

The U.S. manufacturing sector is dynamic and a major contributor to the high-tech economy that too many take for granted.  There are plenty of hurdles, though, that could drive this successful industry off the track.  In the global economy, there are other nations are trade blocs ready to seize the lead in global manufacturing.  In light of the global manufacturing marketplace, we surveyed manufacturers last fall to see how they thought North America stacked up. 

Those results are in.  Today The Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME)  and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu released a reportMade in North America — that takes a look at manufacturing from a North American perspective:  the United State and two of its major trading partners, Canada and Mexico.  North American manufacturers consider the United States the most desirable country for expansion over the next three years and nearly 60 percent of U.S. manufacturers say they will become more competitive over the next five years across the board in sales, marketing, engineering and information technology.

Made in North America breaks new ground in several ways:

  • manufacturers said that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a net plus for them with only ten percent finding that it had hurt their business;
  • nearly 40 percent said that they would expand R&D in the United States, with China and Canada as the next runners up with 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively;
  • the top three barriers to competitiveness are labor costs, work rules and tax policy;
  • the top three priorities survey respondents recommend for government action:  labor costs (including health care and pensions), tax policy and the availability of skilled labor.

The report is another reminder that the strong export performance of U.S. manufacturers this year is keeping the economy out of recession.  How much better we would be doing if a range of overseas barriers and tariffs to U.S. products were eliminated through trade agreements like NAFTA.  Candidates for public office should take a good look at this report and help keep U.S. manufacturing strong with their votes in Congress and state legislatures.  As this survey and news reports about it show, we’ve got too much to lose to ignore manufacturing.

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