Notes from the Editor: Tariff Troubles

Sept. 4, 2018
U.S. manufacturers can't compete on cost alone. If a made-in-the-USA product has merit, some customers might pay a little more to support the manufacturer and the US economy.

Someone wrote a book recently about surviving for a year while only using products made domestically. If for no other reason, the book was interesting because it showed how difficult it was for the book writer to find even normal everyday products which had to be made in USA. As example, according to the internet, 97% of new clothing and 98% of new shoes sold in USA are actually made in some other country.

The scope of the problem is not limited to personal clothing items. It is no secret that for many years hardware companies have sourced parts or complete products from overseas. This has often been done while meeting the rules of the Buy American Act first enacted in 1933. This act basically states that foreign products can be imported and sold if the price of the lowest domestic offer is unreasonable.

For a number of reasons both raw materials and finished goods from abroad are generally less expensive. First, foreign governments have been accused of possibly subsidizing the sale price of raw materials. Second, the level of wages in many countries is generally much lower than for domestic workers in USA. Maintaining good air and water quality are additional domestic manufacturing costs. One only has to look at pictures from China where people routinely wear masks as protection against daily smog conditions.        

An article arrived by E-mail today from a manufacturer who is in the access control sector. This was an open letter to his customers which suggested that a 25% tariff would substantially affect his business. He wrote that "...mitigating circumstances will cause him to pass additional costs down to his customers."

I must admit that my personal vehicle is a Toyota Prius. It was chosen because it was judged by me to be the best vehicle to meet requirements as a dependable means of transportation. I was not concerned about the extra cost of batteries and considered it a small plus in helping the environment. There is a certain world labor pool imbalance these days. Some other country makes the products and we buy them.

If the access control manufacturer mentioned above brings his product manufacturing back to this country, and the product has merit, the added cost will not be a problem and a few extra workers will have new jobs.