Some claim Asian trade hurts small manufacturers
A deputy for Asian affairs with the U.S. State Department told Carson City business people Wednesday morning that trade with Asia is expanding rapidly, but some of those attending the Carson Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting said they are being hurt more than helped.
Patricia Hanigan Scroggs told 20 people in attendance the federal government is pushing to break down trade barriers between the U.S. and Asia – particularly China, which is the fastest growing market for U.S. exports. Del White of REDCO in Carson City and Ray Bacon of the Nevada Manufacturers Association told Scroggs opening international trade has benefited big corporations, not the little guy.
“International trade has been disastrous to the small manufacturers, local manufacturers,” White said.
Bacon said smaller local manufacturers like many of those in Nevada can’t compete with the foreign companies that move in on their turf. He said the big differences are the labor regulations and environmental laws.
And Bacon said getting help from the government isn’t easy, that those mechanisms “don’t appear to work at this point.”
White told her the plastics and tool-making industries won’t exist in the U.S. much longer and asked what the federal government can do about it.
Scroggs agreed some smaller manufacturers are having a lot of trouble. But she said statistics show that more than 90 percent of the growth in trade with Asia in the past decade has been from smaller U.S. companies. She said there are ways to find a piece of the business.
“We see a very productive manufacturing sector in the United States,” she said. “It’s more productive than any time in the past, but if you’re the one losing jobs, you’re the one whose business is going under, that doesn’t help.”
Scroggs said after the breakfast meeting the situation isn’t unique to Nevada. She said while there’s been substantial growth in overseas sales by American companies, many smaller businesses are being pushed out.
“I do understand why those people feel so strongly about it but at the national level, we have to look at the overall picture when setting policy,” she said.
Because of that, she admitted, many of the nation’s biggest businesses see expanding trade, especially in Asia, as a boon while small businesses see it as a threat.
“Overall, the benefits have been substantial on a national basis.”
She said the numbers of small businesses expanding into overseas markets prove smaller businesses can find a competitive niche. She said they should contact the federal International Trade Administration and ask for help finding marketers, distributors and partners overseas.
“Don’t simply give up,” she said. “A lot of what we do is work with the little guys.”