Our favorite big box stores are tripping over themselves in the Chinese take out line. Ordering massive amounts of Chinese goods “to go” (for export), companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot (see today’s other story) are doing their best to worsen our foreign trade deficit. This week Wal-Mart announced that it also has opened a procurement export center in Shanghai to buy merchandise in Northern and Eastern China. According to Chain Store Age, Wal-Mart imported more than $10 billion in goods from China last year. Wal-Mart also has a partnership with China
International Trust and Investment to develop supermarkets in the general Shanghai region. Wal-Mart has 22 stores in China.
When you go to stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, you are really shopping at Shanghai Mart. Your dollars support an effort to undermine the value of American labor, by pressuring manufacturers to shut down their US plants, and relocate in cheaper labor markets in third world countries. The big box stores keep an arm’s length distance from the foreign factories, leaving them less culpable for substandard working conditions in these plants. Home Depot sells tools with names like Glacier Bay and Hampston Bay — but they really should say Shanghai Bay to be truthful about where the tools are produced. How many consumers would buy a line of tools labeled Shanghai Tools? The corporate marketers are hoping you won’t notice or care if the label that once read “Made in America” has been replaced with “Made in Shanghai”. Wal-Mart and Home Depot step up their imports, saying that the expansion is driven by the demands of American consumers. But most consumers have no idea that the cheap tool in their hands was once made by a U.S. worker. We lost more than one million manfacturing jobs last year, and our foreign trade deficit looks like we dug a great financial hole to get to those Chinese goods.