"There finally are signs of a plan to push export-centric business that will result in a clear global trade policy,” says Dr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association.

With campaign-type rhetoric subsiding, the Obama administration now has begun to talk about the need to boost exports as a means to address U.S. economic issues and this can offer opportunities for the manufacturing sector, says a leading economic analyst.  

“There finally are signs of a plan to push export-centric business that will result in a clear global trade policy,” saysDr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for theFabricators & Manufacturers Association(FMA). “This is coming not a moment too soon as global economic gains are taking place in Asia at the same time that real economic decline appears to be in store for the Europeans.”  

In the current issue of the FMA economic newsletterFabrinomics, Kuehl notes that initial discussions from the Obama team centered on what was working with trade policy as opposed to what could be done to expand the sector.  

“The existing trade deals on the table were scrapped and many of the old deals were subjected to new scrutiny,” he says. “As the recession started to give way to a slow recovery it became apparent that the rebound would depend heavily on manufacturers’ abilities to exploit the market opportunities that came from expansion in the so-called BRIC nations and as a result of the U.S. dollar weakness that gave U.S. producers an advantage not had in years.”  

Kuehl acknowledges the “plans remain pretty vague and critics still assert they lack cohesion,” yet he asserts “some basic principles appear to have developed.” These include:
  • A plan aimed at the emerging markets as opposed to the traditional markets that formerly constituted the bulk of U.S. focus. “There is not one European nation on the target list of emphasis nations as the focus will be on Brazil, China, India, Vietnam, South Africa, Korea and elsewhere,” Kuehl says.

  • An effort based on trying to promote the existing export initiatives that the government has in place, but which have mostly been employed by larger companies. The focus now is to get the smaller operations to take advantage of these programs.

“The prime issue for a small company is getting access to business in other nations in a cost effective manner,” Kuehl says. “It is expensive to travel there and expensive to invite buyers in. The complexities are real - from cultural barriers and linguistic challenges to the issues of getting paid and abiding by new laws and regulations. These are tough issues but far from insurmountable.

“At this point the trade plan from the government is long on promise and short on details, but if there is real assistance on the horizon it will become incumbent on manufacturers to figure out how to play and make money.”

Based in Rockford, IL, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl. (FMA), is a professional organization with more than 2,100 members working together to improve the metal forming and fabricating industry. Founded in 1970, FMA brings metal fabricators and fabricating equipment manufacturers together through technology councils, educational programs, networking events, and the FABTECH ® exposition.  FMA also has a technology affiliate, the Tube & Pipe Association, International (TPA), which focuses on the unique needs of companies engaged in tube and pipe producing and fabricating.

Source: L.C. Williams & Associates