Blog: Leonie Barrie'Imports Work' Week highlights global value chains

Leonie Barrie | 7 May 2014

In an attempt to highlight the essential part played by international trade in the US economy, the third annual 'Imports Work' week is this year focusing on the growing role of global value chains and how they can enhance the competitiveness of US companies.

Running from 5-9 May, the event is timed to coincide with World Trade Month, and will see business associations and other organisations discuss the positive value of imports in the trade equation.

"Imports are a good indicator of economic health - they are a sign both of consumer demand and industrial activity," said World Trade Organization (WTO) director-general Roberto Azevêdo.

"For many American companies, imports provide essential component parts for their goods, often at prices which help them to remain competitive. By supporting companies to grow and export in this way, imports are a critical component of any vibrant economy."

At the heart of the initiative are calls for US trade policy to acknowledge the value of imports and work with the global economy instead of against it.

Indeed, supporters cite numerous economic studies that show exports and imports are closely related, and American workers can add substantial value to imported products through the use of global value chains.

One study released last year suggested US workers add more than two-thirds of the actual retail sales value of apparel manufactured overseas. It also found that the US value-added translates directly into American jobs in areas such as research, design, logistics, compliance, distribution, and customer service.

And new research released this week by the National Retail Federation suggests imported products sold in the US contain a lot more US value and support more US jobs than consumers or policy makers realise.

A product labelled "Made in China" might actually include parts made in America and virtually always represents a wide variety of US jobs, it claims, adding that on average 70% of the value in a piece of clothing comes from the US.

"Does 'Made in America' really mean what people think?" the study asks. "Imported goods with foreign labels often include significant but unrevealed amounts of US content."

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