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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bailing on Free Trade
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Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth's Tuck School, one of today's best thinkers on trade and globalization, says the consequences of any Big Three Auto bailout go far beyond the initial price tag.

First, it would hurt foreign direct investment in the U.S. and thus the insourcing of U.S. jobs:

In 2006 these foreign auto makers (multinational auto or auto-parts companies that are headquartered outside of the U.S.) employed 402,800 Americans. The average annual compensation for these employees was $63,538.

At the head of the line of sustainable auto companies stands Toyota. In its 2008 fiscal year, it earned a remarkable $17.1 billion world-wide and assembled 1.66 million motor vehicles in North America. Toyota has production facilities in seven states and R&D facilities in three others. Honda, another sustainable auto company, operates in five states and earned $6 billion in net income in 2008. In contrast, General Motors lost $38.7 billion last year.

Across all industries in 2006, insourcing companies registered $2.8 trillion in U.S. sales while employing 5.3 million Americans and paying them $364 billion in compensation.

Second, Slaughter says, a Big Three bailout could hurt U.S.-headquartered multinationals:

these companies employ more than 22 million Americans and account for a remarkable 75.8% of all private-sector R&D in the U.S. Their success depends on their ability to access foreign customers. . . .

This access to foreign markets has been good for America. But it won't necessarily continue. The policy environment abroad is growing more protectionist. . . .

Will a U.S.-government bailout go ignored by policy makers abroad?

No. A bailout will likely entrench and expand protectionist practices across the globe, and thus erode the foreign sales and competitiveness of U.S. multinationals. And that would reduce these companies' U.S. employment, R&D and related activities. That would be bad for America.

Rising trade barriers would also hurt the Big Three, all of which are multinational corporations that depend on foreign markets. In 2007, GM produced more motor vehicles outside North America than in -- 5.02 million, or 54% of its world-wide total.

Finally, a bail-out further endangers the dollar:

Will a federal bailout that politicizes American markets bolster foreign-investor demand for U.S. assets?

Not likely. Instead, America runs the risk of creating the kind of "political-risk premium" that investors have long placed on other countries -- and that would reduce demand for U.S. assets and thereby the value of the U.S. dollar.

Read the whole thing. Bailing out Detroit means bailing on free trade and American innovation.

posted by Bret Swanson @ 11:26 AM |

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