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Alan Uke

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The High Cost of Cheap Imports

Posted: 06/20/2012 10:48 am

Don't get me wrong: We need international trade. It's good for business, it's good for foreign relations, and it's good for development in all sectors of the economy. Our current economic crisis is not the fault of international trade but of the fact that much of it is dangerously imbalanced. For every dollar Americans spend on Chinese goods, only $0.25 is returned. It doesn't take a math wiz to figure out that eventually we're going to be pretty short on cash. These kinds of trading partners cause the bulk of our massive trade deficit.

The United States built its early success on industrial excellence, but we've let that advantage slip. After the end of World War II, our manufacturing sector was the only one not in shambles. Other countries made it a national movement to lift themselves out of poverty by making things at home and purchasing their own goods. With our prosperous economy and strong manufacturing sector, we took America's prosperity for granted while these other nations plundered it. Things are now so bad that we now need our own national movement -- to make things at home and only buy from countries who buy from us.

"Made in the U.S.A." products still exist, and even more companies would have incentive to move operations back if consumers began to reward these companies with their purchases. A consumer movement aimed at buying American goods, or goods from balanced trade partners, could save our economy. But to do this, we need more accurate information about where things actually come from. We need a detailed country-of-origin label that tells us where products come from, in what percentages, and whether the U.S. has imbalanced trade ratios with those producing countries.

If you own an iPhone, it likely has the words "Made in China" somewhere on the product. But the iPhone is only put together in China. The majority of its components are made elsewhere: in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Germany, and even the U.S.A. This kind of misinformation is why we need more accurate labeling.

We need to support each other with targeted purchasing choices. We don't need to only buy American (though it helps); we need to buy for America. That means preferring goods from countries we have balanced trade relationships with. Instead of Chinese goods (until they buy more from us), we should buy from other low-cost countries. The price point will likely be similar, but the effect will be hugely more beneficial to our job market because of the trade ratio we have with these countries. As mentioned earlier, with every purchase we make of Chinese goods, 75-percent more money flows out of the country than comes back from them. But of every dollar spent on Taiwanese goods, only 27 percent is not returned, and that figure is 22 percent for Korean goods. The difference is astounding, and this multiplier effect has a concrete impact on our economy and our domestic jobs.

If we don't have a lot of money to spend, we can still buy the things we need from the cheaper, import-laden superstores. But the things we want we should buy locally or domestically, because our money makes a real difference in the world.

The American Revolution was also about economic independence from a foreign power. Remember the Boston Tea Party? If everyone were to focus their attention on buying American products and avoiding imports from countries who shun our exports, we could make a real dent in this country's economic problems. And that's why I am calling on Congress to pass a resolution to make July 1 to 7 "Buy American Week." Americans need to know that the power to bring our country back is firmly in their hands.

To learn more information about Buying America Back, please visit buyingamericaback.org.

 
 
 
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