Retailer maps out how its plans to benefit U.S. manufacturing revival.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is proposing 10 policy actions intended to benefit U.S. manufacturing, unveiling the report during a bipartisan discussion held Wednesday in Washington.
The policy road map for the country was created with the help of Boston Consulting Group and designed to eliminate some of the barriers limiting domestic manufacturing. Together, Wal-Mart and the consulting firm believe that the plan could help recapture $300 billion of the $650 billion of consumer goods that are currently imported and create 1.5 million U.S. jobs.
“We’re not talking about policy changes by themselves being the solution,” said Dan Bryant, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of global public policy and government affairs. “But the 10 policy actions outlined in the report will absolutely lead to a turning on of the spigot to increased U.S. manufacturing. There are real barriers that can be removed.”
Wal-Mart said it created the road map after first identifying four barriers hindering U.S. manufacturing: the unavailability of qualified workers, a U.S. tax system and trade agreements in need of modernization, complex regulations and a lack of coordination and financing.
The retailer cited its own experiences in working with suppliers as an inspiration for the plan. The Bentonvillebased retailer is more than four years into a commitment to source an additional $250 billion in U.S.-made products by 2023. Wal-Mart, which said two-thirds of its products are sourced in the U.S., believes that the 10-year campaign could create as many as 1 million jobs.
Cindi Marsiglio, Wal-Mart’s
vice president for U.S. sourcing and manufacturing, said during Wednesday’s presentation that she is proud of the company’s progress so far. She did not provide specifics regarding Wal-Mart’s progress toward the goal but acknowledged that there still is plenty to accomplish as the halfway point of the commitment approaches.
Marsiglio also said WalMart has learned plenty about the challenges suppliers face the past four years.
“The good news is we’ve also learned how to overcome the challenges and, because of our experience, Wal-Mart is uniquely positioned to help facilitate broad engagement in accelerating the expansion of U.S manufacturing,” Marsiglio said in a prepared statement.
Some of the actions WalMart proposed Wednesday include reducing the costs on private industry to train workers through tax incentives
aimed at apprenticeships and other forms of training; changing the image of U.S. manufacturing to attract new workers through programs like educational workshops and career development initiatives; and using tax incentives to encourage the growth of component production to help close supply-chain gaps and promote manufacturing clusters.
Additional ideas include harmonizing manufacturing regulations across different levels of government, streamlining compliance requirements, creating a globally competitive tax environment and modernizing trade agreements to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said a healthy amount of conversation regarding ways to strengthen U.S. manufacturing is already underway, so Wal-Mart’s proposed plan was not “groundbreaking.”
But Paul did agree with some of the retailer’s suggestions
such as the emphasis on workforce training. He said others were much more “proWal-Mart.” Paul pointed to the plan of harmonizing manufacturing regulations — including “Made in the USA” labeling — among government agencies as an example.
“I think having a broader set of stakeholders interested in the future of American manufacturing is a good thing,” Paul said. “But I also fear, in some ways, that Wal-Mart may also be saying, if you read between the lines, it may be hard for us to meet our Made in America commitment because policy is standing in the way. They’re kind of setting up that potential argument.”
The report was released nearly a month after Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon told companies participating in the retailer’s “Open Call” for U.S. products event that Wal-Mart was “committed to being a leader in terms of policy.” McMillon said at the time that Wal-Mart was planning to unveil a list of U.S.
manufacturing policy recommendations.
Wal-Mart gathered representatives from businesses, government and nongovernmental organizations to discuss those recommendations in Washington on Wednesday.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson was not in attendance but applauded Wal-Mart’s efforts to pull stakeholders together to further the conversation.
“One of my chief priorities is to ensure that all Arkansans have access to quality employment opportunities,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “The best way to achieve that is to create an environment that encourages companies to invest and create jobs right here at home.
“Wal-Mart’s efforts to remove the hurdles that keep many companies from producing goods domestically by combining the forces of government, the private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations, is a great step forward in tackling this complex issue.”