Thursday, September 17, 2009

More on tires

I'd like to add to my previous post. Some, like Adam Bobrow, have responded to Obama's tire tariffs with considerably more nuance than the critics I mentioned earlier. They have done so from a perspective of a "comprehensive" approach to trade liberalization, one that tries to make the loss of certain industries in the U.S. and elsewhere more palatable through job retraining programs, improved social safety nets, etc. Basically, Jagdish Bhagwati's line (a loyal Democrat, by the way).

But these people miss a crucial point: old-fashioned, nuts and bolts industry is good to have in ANY country, not just the "developing world." Every state will, naturally, find a different mix of sectors most suitable to its conditions. However, manufacturing, through its bringing together of large groups of people in one place, through its job stability, and through the satisfaction and pride it brings by creating something concrete, builds communities in a way that no "service" employer---whether a fast food restaurant, a call center or a hair salon, a white collar consulting this or that, a do-good NGO or whatever---ever will.

Obama's action against an "import surge" (not "dumping," as I wrongly implied in the previous post) may be procedurally just---the P.R.C. agreed to the U.S. retaining its Section 421 provisions when it joined the WTO. And it may also be substantively unjust to Chinese workers. But is also only fair to American tire employees and to hopes for a healthy nation on this side of the Pacific.

It's bridging these two fairnesses, of course, that is the biggest obstacle to solidarity between U.S. and Chinese workers.

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