Trump factory jobs sent to China may never come back
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 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 any more,” Zhang Huarong said, speaking in his office in the factory hub of Dongguan.
His company has made about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes over the years, according to spokesperson Liu Shiyuan.
In August it filled an order for 20,000 – just weeks after Mr Trump accepted the Republican nomination, with a speech vowing to bring jobs back to the US.
It is a goal Mr Trump plans to accomplish by imposing a 45 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods, but his focus could be misplaced: Mr 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, Mr Zhang opened his first factory in Ethiopia. Four years later, a billion-dollar facility is being built.
“My goal is to create 30,000 jobs in Ethiopia by 2020, with exports reaching US$1.5 billion,” he said.
Low-wage, low-skilled manufacturing jobs like those Mr 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 United States”, said Christopher Balding, professor of economics at Peking University HSBC Business School.
Huajian’s shoes are a fraction of the more than 1200 shipments of Trumpbranded products that have flowed into the US from China and Hong Kong over the last decade, according to an examination of US import data by anti-Trump political action committee Our Principles PAC.
Mr Trump has defended the decision to licence its name to companies that make the goods in China as smart business, while slamming other US firms such as Ford and Nabisco for offshoring. –