Federal agencies grouped under the bland-sounding Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) are proposing to radically redefine U.S. manufacturing and trade statistics.
Under the proposal, U.S. firms that have offshored their production abroad – like Apple – would become “factoryless goods” manufacturers. The foreign factories that actually manufacture the goods – like the notorious iPhone-producing Foxconn factories in China – would no longer be manufacturers, but “service” providers for the rebranded “manufacturing” firms like Apple.
It appears the administration has been reading Orwell.
But the problem with this proposed redefinition is not merely that it offends common sense. The “factoryless goods” proposal would deceptively deflate the size of reported, but not actual, U.S. manufacturing trade deficits, while artificially inflating the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs overnight.
While some details of the proposal remain open-ended, one thing is clear: this maneuver would obscure the erosion of U.S. manufacturing. It would disguise the mass-offshoring of U.S. middle-class factory jobs incentivized by NAFTA-style trade deals. It would undermine efforts to change the unfair trade and other policies that have led to such decline.
To boost U.S. manufacturing jobs and production, we need to switch our policies, not our numbers. …