Trump fac­tory jobs in China may never come back

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

DONG­GUAN: US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump has pledged to bring long lost Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs back from China. But he may be too late, even for prod­ucts that bear his fam­ily name.

A Chi­nese com­pany that makes shoes for his daugh­ter’s fash­ion line is mov­ing pro­duc­tion to Africa, where labour is much cheaper.

The bil­lion­aire ty­coon has fre­quently ac­cused China of steal­ing US jobs through un­fair trade prac­tices and cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­ly­ing on the coun­try to make Trump-branded goods.

But the kind of work that goes into mak­ing such prod­ucts may never re­turn to Amer­ica, the pres­i­dent of ma­jor footwear pro­ducer Hua­jian Group told AFP.

“Some man­u­fac­tur­ers can’t even sur­vive in China any­more,” Zhang Huarong said, speak­ing in his of­fice in the south­ern fac­tory hub of Dong­guan.

His com­pany has made about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump­branded shoes over the years, ac­cord­ing to spokesman Liu Shiyuan.

In Au­gust it filled an or­der for 20,000 – just weeks af­ter Trump ac­cepted the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, with a speech vow­ing to bring jobs back to the US.

It is a goal Trump plans to ac­com­plish by im­pos­ing a 45% tar­iff on Chi­nese-made goods, but his fo­cus could be mis­placed: Zhang has be­come one of a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers ex­pand­ing to Africa and South­east Asia in search of lower pro­duc­tion costs.

In 2012, Zhang opened his first fac­tory in Ethiopia. Four years later, he is build­ing a bil­lion-dol­lar fa­cil­ity there. Its pro­duc­tion lines are al­ready hum­ming.

Low-wage, low-skilled man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs like those Zhang is send­ing to Africa are “be­ing priced out of the Chi­nese mar­ket, which still pays wages far be­neath even min­i­mum wage jobs in the US,” said Christo­pher Bald­ing, pro­fes­sor of economics at Pek­ing Univer­sity HSBC Busi­ness School.

The Trump cam­paign did not re­spond to ques­tions from AFP, while Ivanka Trump’s com­pany “de­clined” to com­ment.

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