Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 18 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/11/20

American firms aren't beholden to America -- but that's news to Trump

Author 47089
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert Reich
Become a Fan
  (129 fans)

From The Guardian

The president's agreement with China is based on a misunderstanding of the corporate mindset. It's time to invest in ourselves

Elon Musk at Tesla Factory
Elon Musk at Tesla Factory
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia, Author: Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Trump's "phase one" agreement with China, to be signed on Wednesday, is intended partly to slow China's move into new technologies like electric cars by protecting the intellectual property of American corporations.

Which lends a certain irony to Tesla's first Model 3 electric sedans now coming off assembly lines at the firm's new multibillion-dollar plant in Shanghai.

The Model 3 marks a huge milestone for Elon Musk's company as it rapidly expands in the world's largest electric-vehicle market. But it's not a milestone for America.

The people who are learning how to make electric cars ever more efficiently in Tesla's Shanghai factory are Chinese.

The Chinese are intent on learning as much as they can from Tesla and other leading global corporations. And the corporations don't care as long as their investments in China pay off.

Trump is demanding China provide stronger patent and copyright protections. But the Chinese who are gaining valuable experience in firms like Tesla will take what they learn and apply it elsewhere regardless.

To the extent that those better protections increase the profits of American firms in China, American firms like Tesla will invest even more in China.

Trump doesn't understand a basic reality of today's global economy: the profitability and competitiveness of American corporations aren't the same as the well-being and competitiveness of Americans. American corporations have no particular obligation to the United States. They're obligated to their shareholders.

About 30% of the shareholders of large American corporations aren't even American. As global money sloshes ever more quickly across borders, that percentage is growing.

The 500 largest corporations headquartered in the United States are steadily becoming less American. A full 40% of their employees live and work outside the United States. They sell and buy components and services all over the world. They do research wherever they find talented engineers and scientists.

China's share of global research and development already tops America's. One big reason, according to the National Science Foundation, is that American firms nearly doubled their research and development investments in Asia over the last decade.

They did it because China is a huge and growing market, with an increasing number of talented researchers and well-educated workers.

In 2017, GE announced it was increasing its investments in advanced manufacturing and robotics in China, which it termed "an important and critical market for GE."

Google has opened an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing, headed by Google's chief scientist for AI and machine learning.

Even when it comes to technologies linked to national security, American firms have no particular allegiance to America. They'll make and sell anything, anywhere, unless US law stops them.

Last July, the US Senate held hearings on Facebook's planned crypto-currency, called Libra. Facebook executives insisted it be allowed to create the currency or "some other country [that is, China] will."

But Facebook's motive for developing Libra has nothing to do with stopping China from creating its own crypto-currency. Facebook wants to be free to make as much money as it can, wherever. After all, Facebook has spent much of the last decade trying to curry favor with the Chinese in hopes of opening China to Facebook.

Not even the worldwide association Facebook established for Libra is based in the United States. It's in Switzerland, home of famously lax banking laws.

The reality is that leading global corporations like Tesla, GE, Google and Facebook will create good, high-wage jobs in the United States (or in Britain, Australia, or anywhere else you may be reading this) only if those countries' inhabitants are clever and productive enough to make it profitable for them to do so.

This means that the real competitiveness of the United States depends on the creativity and productivity of Americans. That in turn depends on Americans' education (including the basic research that's done in national labs and universities), health and the infrastructure connecting them to one another.

But the American workforce is hobbled by deteriorating schools, unaffordable college tuitions, decaying infrastructure, soaring healthcare costs and diminishing basic research.

All of which is putting most Americans on a path toward second-rate jobs in the global economy.

Big American-based corporations don't see it as their responsibility to fix this. They certainly don't want to pay for it. To the contrary, they've lobbied for and received tax cut after tax cut.

Yet they have an iron grip on American politics through their campaign donations, lobbying and public-relations campaigns.

Trump isn't helping. His economic nationalism continues to champion American corporations, not American workers.

This, not China, is the real source of America's competitive woes.

 

Well Said 1   News 1   Supported 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Robert Reich Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Trump Cornered

The Republican's Big Lies About Jobs (And Why Obama Must Repudiate Them)

Paul Ryan Still Doesn't Get It

What Mitt Romney Really Represents

What to Do About Disloyal Corporations

The Gas Wars

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: