Opinion

Offshoring isn’t after your job

Donald Trump is signing executive orders putting America first. Has he thought the consequences through?

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The controversy continues – if it can really be called a controversy rather than common sense. As US president Donald Trump states over and over again that he will put American jobs first, revising the H-1B visa scheme so that it’s more difficult to import foreign workers, more and more people are spotting that foreign workers aren’t the bogeymen they’re made out to be.

CNBC is the latest channel we’ve spotted to criticise the “Buy American” policy, joining a list that started before his presidency when it was noticed that items for sale on his website were sourced from China. This time the argument is about the sheer damage attempting to buy from your own country alone can do.

It’s complicated

The practicalities are all but impossible to surmount, for a start. Once you’ve investigated the supply chain and done so in a genuinely diligent manner, the issue of what constitutes an “American” product is far from clear. 40% of products, according to the CNBC report, are the result of “global value chains”, in other words a string of production processes that span the world. Trump has complained that iPhones are manufactured in China and it was headline-grabbing stuff that probably gained him some votes; whether a twice-the-price iPhone (or Samsung phone or whatever) made in the US would actually destroy the market rather than build jobs is open to question.

Restricting sourcing practices may also run contrary to a number of World Trade Organisation strictures. To be fair, Trump has commissioned a report to ascertain just what’s possible here, and this is due in the Autumn. Whatever this report recommends, it remains as difficult to reconcile Trump’s apparent support of the free market with this controlling attitude as it is to imagine a successful economy when all the others are sourcing where they please.

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