The idea of a manufacturing strategy or industrial policy is hardly a radical concept. Alexander Hamilton constructed America’s first industrial policy in 1791. Setbacks during the War of 1812 due to a lack of domestic capacity to build naval vessels and military equipment cemented the determination of the federal government to grow manufacturing, a policy that continued until the end of World War II.
Today, globalization and such economic approaches as a strong dollar policy favoring domestic consumption have helped to steadily erode manufacturing as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, as well as private-sector employment and other key measures. AAM has called for a national manufacturing strategy to reverse the decline in U.S. manufacturing and the good jobs that come with it. Any manufacturing strategy must take into account the severe imbalance in U.S. trade with China, which has manipulated its currency and subsidized its industries to create unfair competition with U.S. manufacturers.
The United States must engage in serious bilateral talks with China to ensure it eliminates its many mercantilist and protectionist policies. Public investment in infrastructure development and such value-added manufacturing as clean energy also should be a part of the strategy, as well as retaining Buy America requirements. The surest path forward is to invest more in domestic manufacturing and reform our trade policies. Such actions will create more exports, more jobs, more innovation and more growth.