‘Made in USA’ confuses at convention
The DNC official merchandise store in the Philadelphia Convention Center draws large crowds every day for the many souvenirs of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, everything from T-shirts, caps and socks to golf balls and buttons with an image of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Careful shoppers will find that no labels show anything not made in the United States. T-shirts and mugs have Made in USA markings, while labels of origin could not be found on golf balls, socks and caps.
It is not clear if some labels have been taken off deliberately to avoid triggering a debate. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has drawn fire from Democrats and others for wearing things made in China and Mexico, especially as he has been promising to protect jobs in the US.
Another store selling DNC souvenirs, run by a company called Impact Dimensions, has gone a step further. Located in the Comcast Center just a few blocks from the convention center, it has a huge billboard outside stating “All Products Made in the USA.” And on each side of the wall is a huge poster with a “Made in the USA” sign against a background of the American “Start and Stripes” flag.
Unlike the official merchandise store inside the convention center, the goods from T-shirts and mugs to key chains and caps all bear “Made in USA” labels.
These two stores look surreal in contrast to every other non-DNC related souvenir shop in Philadelphia, where most goods are either made in China or other developing countries in Asia or Latin America.
In the gift store at the Independence Seaport Museum along the Delaware River, a mile and a half east of the convention center, it is hard to find anything made in the US.
T-shirts are made in Nicaragua, Honduras and Haiti, beach towels from Guatemala and everything else, from pirate island puzzles, model pirate ships and rubber band paddle boats to plastic starfish, ducks and plush Teddy Bears with the museum’s logo, are all made in China.
An exhibit on the second floor of the museum features Philadelphia and China trade, telling the story of the trip made by the Empress of China, the first American ship to sail — on Feb 22, 1784, George Washington’s birthday — from the newly independent US to China. It returned to New York on May 11, 1785 after a round trip of almost 15 months, carrying, porcelain, spices and other Chinese goods.
Before its independence, the American colonies were not allowed by the British to trade with Asian nations. The Treaty of Paris signed in 1783 ended the American Revolutionary War and also the trade restriction. But it also said that US ships could no longer trade with the British West Indies, which supplied the US with much needed tea.
The profit made by the Empress of China voyage quickly encouraged more American merchants to pursue trade with China, which grew rapidly.
John Green, captain of the Empress of China, and Robert Morris, who financed the trip, were both Philadelphians. And Philadelphia was the destination where the majority of her Far Eastern cargo was reshipped from New York, according to the exhibition.
During those years, China’s economy accounted for more than 30 percent of the world’s total.
While bilateral trade has expanded astronomically in the last four decades, now approaching $558 billion, making China the top US trade partner, anti-trade sentiment has been running high in the US, especially among Democrats.
A few years ago, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, made a big fuss about the 2012 US Olympic team uniforms being made in China and not in the USA.
Hillary Clinton, nominated on Tuesday, made a big switch during the campaign to oppose the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) from the days when she was secretary of state and called the pact a “gold standard”. The sea change has largely been interpreted as a bid to win bluecollar voters.
The store inside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia sells only 2016 DNC souvenirs, and the huge sign outside the door says all products are made in the US. Anti-trade sentiment has been strong during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, being held in the city this week.