I don’t think there is an American consumer or for that matter any consumer in the world, that has failed to notice the racks and shelves and displays in most stores are filled with products that are made in China. It is hardly an issue anymore we are so innured to it. We are grateful to those factories in China that have produced these goods we have grown to love and need. It is a true manifestation of the success of the consumption side ot the globalist model. I am sure Nixon would never have imagined this avalanche of goods when he visited China in 1972 and gave his toast in Shanghai where he said:
…if we can find common ground on which we can both stand, where we can build the bridge between us and build a new world, generations in the years ahead will look back and thank us for this meeting that we have held in this past week.
(Richard Milhous Nixon, February 1972)
Imagine, that was just 50 years ago. I wonder if those great shapers (or shoppers) of the past intended this to be the result of that much vaunted future bridge. To respond to Nixon: Mr. President, I am not entirely thankful for that toast you offered in Shanghai for our American future. This has been a one-way bridge to a Chinese cash register.
T.S. Eliot recognized the problem of bridges in the Dry Salvages where he wrote of the river god. I would suggest a rephrase of his poem:
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the Pacific Ocean
Is a deep blue god—sullen, untamed and inscrutable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
(Modified words of T.S. Eliot)
Well, we can thank President Nixon, a worthy anti-communist and Republican pragmatist for recognizing the necessity to account for the potential of integrating the world’s largest population into the market place. His move was astute and he dreamed of American products being sold to a Chinese market. I am not sure he imagined the actual imbalance of trade and threat to fair trade that would result. But how to confront this imbalance?
U.S Law requires the country of origin to be displayed on imported products. That code specifically is the U,S. Code 19-1304.
Except as hereinafter provided, every article of foreign origin (or its container, as provided in subsection (b) hereof) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article.
Now this law dates to the Tarriff Act of 1930. And it is a good law, and it is why we can see today that so many products on the shelves in the United States are made in China.
One can argue that this law is outmoded and is an anachronistic example of American protectionism. One might also argue that in the evolving global economy does it matter where a good is made? And that such labeling promotes, God forbid, nationalism. Well, that’s a good progressive debate but as an American consumer, I’d like to exercise my choice not only about what I consume but I also exercise some control as to who benefits from my consumption (outside of me). I am not at all comfortable helping the Chinese build their Pacific fleet.
I think the law is outmoded but in the sense that it must be adapted to include on-line distributors like Amazon.com. If our legislators would consider the addition of a few simple words to the above stated paragraph from U.S. Code 19-1304 to read something like:
Except as hereinafter provided, every article of foreign origin (or its container, or as presented in an on-line platform) as provided in subsection (b) hereof) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article. The on-line platform must also allow the consumer to easily and effectively filter by country of origin.
Legal experts can argue the minutiae, but it seems an easy fix. The law further allows exceptions enumerated in subsection (b) and appears to allow the Secretary of the Treasury some degree of freedom to apply the law. But I’d prefer to have the law be explicit and updated to 2022. This simple fix may change the way we spend our money and allow us individually or collectively to decide who benefits from our consumption. Even the IRS and policy makers can get into the picture and allow for creative tax deductions for consumption that originates from preferred places that we as a nation decide. Maybe on-line distributors could be obliged to file some kind of 1099-type form to the government if a consumer freely decides to opt-in reporting how much was consumed by a person by country-of-origin and then be provided the tax benefits. This would allow those very same tax incentives to promote production in countries where employment is sorely needed and possibly diminish dependence on foreign aid. Seems like a good policy tool and objective.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say El Salvador wanted to promote a product produced in their country. Currently it is very difficult for El Salvador to compete in a production market dominated by the Chinese-industrial complex. Imagine if we (the United States or a collective of nations), in the aggregate were able filter and select replacement goods made in El Salvador by clicking an option box. Filter by country-of-origin. The consumer would enjoy the tax benefit of that purchased good and know that their consumption wasn’t helping China build a hypersonic missile; El Salvador would enjoy new and targeted demand and catalyze their fledgling industry and perhaps build a more solid economic base there staving illegal immigration at the expense of the replaced Chinese product. It is not so much “Made in the USA” that is important. That nationalist production model may unfortunately never be relevant again. But perhaps a “Not made in China” model could be envisioned. Nixon didn’t have the tools of today’s technology. I think, however, this might be an approach Nixon might also have accepted. This seems like a way to build far better forward together and stop the anachronistic desire to build back better. Americans have always excelled in moving the liberal economic experiment forward.
Look and learn. Let’s change that law and oblige on-line distributors to insert that filter by country-of-origin and let us consume products by that country of origin and channel our consumption targeting places that really need access to our markets and can benefit from that access far more than China. Let’s make Amazon.com a tool for us and not a tool for the ruling class of the Chinese Communist Party.