Saturday, June 04, 2005

China Spins Its Wicked Web, part 1

I sew. Therefore I buy fabrics. "Made in the USA" labels have vanished from my favorite fabric store in the past six months.

The stuff Pakistan weaves isn't fit to wrap trash. No selvages: fabric edges are open frays. The thread count is low, warp and woof threads are not square, so the loosely woven fabric creates a misshapen garment that never hangs properly.

China makes good silks and beautiful brocades, but their fabric is so narrow (26-28") it takes yards and yards to make the simplest dress. Their cottons are pathetic and synthetics are gross.

American-made goods are usually top-quality. American workers are the most productive in the world.

When I was a foreign correspondent based in Hong Kong, an exec from a major US durable goods manufacturer which had a plant in China told me after a year of operations, it took seven Chinese workers three hours to complete as much as one American worker accomplished in an hour. The company's American workers were 21 times more productive than their Chinese workers and Americans learned in a month what Chinese could not grasp in a year. Chinese work hard, and slog on for 10 or 12 hours, but they are slow and sloppy. Despite vastly increased training costs and appalling low productivity, it still cost the company half as much to build their product in China.

Former President Clinton made a horrific error in granting the Chinese Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. Worse was the trade agreement. Negotiators should have written a deal that would commence once China joined WTO and abided by its rules, and signed international intellectual property protection conventions and put the counterfeiters out of commission. Instead they were so stupid they let the Chinese get away with promises to do so in the future.

Result: China has not fulfilled so much as one promise, yet flooded our markets with their cheap goods, profitting by hundreds of billions of US dollars per year.

Now the Chinese are pitching fits and muttering "trade war" over re-imposition of textile quotas.

If US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez had a modicum of guts, he'd tell the Chinese that MFN and the trade agreement are suspended until China signs on to WTO and protects intellectual property as they agreed to do. But from the clip of Sect. Gutierrez fielding Chinese university students' questions which aired on CNN last night, I have to label him a wimp and an ignoramus.

If our trade reps don't put steel rods in their spongey spines, China will take the bakery along with the cake.


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