‘Made in USA’ con­fuses at con­ven­tion

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Philadel­phia chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

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.

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