In this holiday season of frenetic gift shopping, Western New Yorkers would do well to consider what the endless procession of "Made in China" labels on goods means to their families. It is time to consider the consequences: toxic toy imports, a record trade deficit, millions of American layoffs and the rise of a competing global power at the expense of our own national security.
Medina is a case study in how our trade relationship with China hurts American workers, consumers and taxpayers. At its peak, Fisher-Price in Medina provided 950 jobs, produced great toys and was highly profitable. Mattel bought the company, shifted production to China, dismissed the workers and shuttered the plant. Now we see toxic toys from China recalled in waves while Western New York struggles to keep manufacturing jobs.
Workers lose out because those manufacturing job opportunities are disappearing, making it more difficult for families to pay the bills. Manufacturing jobs typically pay more than retail and service sector jobs. A manufacturing worker supports as many as four or five other jobs: suppliers, service providers, and mom-and-pop shops.
Consumers lose out because that low China price can now come at a dangerous cost. This holiday season, more than 70 percent of our toys will be sourced from China. As a result, consumers are left with few American-made options if they prefer not to play Russian roulette with their children's safety. Unsafe consumer products such as lead-laced toys, deadly dog food and recalled cribs are already well publicized. Our government can take steps to ensure safer goods and more manufacturing in America, but so far it has not aggressively pursued either course.
Taxpayers are victims on two levels. Communities often face challenges in funding infrastructure when large, taxpaying manufacturers disappear, placing upward pressure on taxes and downward pressure on services. The Defense Department is now more dependent on overseas supplies than ever, meaning our tax dollars are going overseas to subsidize military contractors doing business in China and other nations, while manufacturers of strategic goods and materials here are closing because of unfair foreign competition.
There is no single solution to the "Made in China" challenge. While the consumer consequences require a dramatic increase in inspections and appropriate regulation, China's unfair trade practices must also be addressed.
Simply put: China cheats. It does not honor the commitments it made to the United States, subsidizing its industries at the expense of our workers and manufacturers. We should start by enforcing the trade laws already on our books that hold China accountable.
Scott Paul is executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a joint partnership of several leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. AAM is sponsoring a Town Hall meeting on manufacturing hosted by TV and film personality John Ratzenberger at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Asbury Hall.