I’ve been wondering lately, when exactly did the term “Made in America” become obsolete?
Contrary to some opinions, it hasn’t. In fact, American made goods and services are not a relic of the past and “reshoring” by some major companies could the wave of the future.
The latest salvo in the import war was fired by Walmart. Sometimes blamed for driving retail buying overseas in the first place, the company plans to purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S. made products over the next 10 years. Let’s hope it goes better than Sam Walton’s ill-fated “Buy American” campaign that suffered an ignominious end in the mid-1990s when banners festooned the stores above racks of clothing made in Asian sweatshops. It’s an embarrassment that still haunts the halls of Bentonville.
But I’m not here to denigrate Walmart, but to applaud the effort. I’m not a flag-waving xenophobe or a Tea Party protectionist. It’s not personal—just business. It may not directly affect the grocery industry, but higher wages in places like China and India, along with escalating transportation costs, are reducing the cost advantage of overseas production. When China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, workers averaged 58 cents an hour. By 2015, wages for skilled workers in the Yangtze River Delta will be 61% of U.S. wages, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
And isn’t it a delicious irony that as income rises among Chinese consumers, they don’t want goods cranked out by their own factories. They want products made in the U.S. and Europe.
“Reshoring” isn’t going to happen over night. But take that Beijing! Who’s the bitch now? Hey, nothing personal!