Keep It ‘Made in the Carolinas,’ Charlotte Observer

Wed, 12/12/2007

By Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a partnership of several leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers.
The Carolinas have been hard hit by manufacturing job loss. More than 211,600 N.C. and 91,400 S.C. factory jobs have vanished since 2000. But that isn’t news to anyone who has spent time in communities like Rock Hill or Kannapolis.

Here’s the news: This election, you can do something about it.

Presidential candidates are spending a lot of time in South Carolina. They will have ample time to learn about issues that are important to the region’s voters. They’d be wise to articulate a positive, forward-looking vision on how to strengthen manufacturing in the Carolinas and across our nation.

Manufacturing is still the largest contributor to both states’ economies. But plant closings and layoffs are contributing to a wave of personal bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures. When a manufacturing facility shutters, it means more than just a lost job. It produces a devastating ripple effect, with families struggling and the social fabric of communities being torn apart.

Is the decline of manufacturing irreversible—even, as some argue, desirable in today’s “new” economy? No. For millions of families, manufacturing jobs continue to provide one of the best ways to climb the ladder to the American dream. Manufacturing supports two-thirds of all private-sector U.S. research and nearly 80 percent of our patents. We risk losing this unless manufacturing is revitalized.

Our national leaders don’t get it. Most industrialized nations have policies to grow domestic manufacturing. Export powerhouses like Brazil, Japan, South Korea and Germany actively support their domestic industries. America does not.

American workers and manufacturers are not asking for a handout. They simply want trade rules to be enforced. They want to have the same opportunity to compete in the global marketplace. Regrettably, many policy decisions drive our jobs overseas. Trade deals that are poorly negotiated and enforced, health care costs, taxes and energy policy all determine whether our workers and manufacturers will be able to compete in the global arena.

It will take a significant shift in course to turn things around. Already, a flood of illegally subsidized Chinese imports is entering the U.S. market. Unsafe consumer products like lead-laced toys and recalled cribs are well publicized, but China’s other trade practices threaten to eliminate even more manufacturing jobs. The Chinese government has given China’s steelmakers at least $52 billion in direct and indirect subsidies over the past five years. China misaligns its currency to give it a trade advantage that results in a 40 percent discount on Chinese exports to the United States and a 40 percent tax on our exports to China.

That’s not the free market at work. It’s cheating, and it must stop.

The power, Carolina voters, is in your hands. You may not work in manufacturing, but chances are your friends, family, schools and corner grocery depend on a vibrant manufacturing base. In South Carolina, the candidates are hosting town halls, showing up at rallies, even knocking on your doors. Demand that they answer these questions:

As president, how will you save American manufacturing jobs? What specific policies will you support to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing base, which is vital to our economic and national security? What steps will you take to enforce our trade laws and hold cheating countries like China accountable?

A leading role in 2008 awaits you. You can keep it made in the Carolinas.

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