In 1980, around the time that globalization exploded and free trade agreements became more prevalent, the U.S. had 19.2 million manufacturing jobs. Since then, the sector's total employment has fallen to just 11.6 million as jobs are outsourced to low-wage nations, like Mexico and China.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law a piece of legislation designed to ease costs for U.S. manufacturers by reducing tariffs on raw materials and other component parts not readily available in America.
The Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. In the Senate, the bill passed unanimously with a roll call vote. In the lower chamber, only 43 lawmakers voted against the measure.
The president sought to portray the measure as part of his administration and congressional Democrats' commitment to restoring the nation's struggling manufacturing base.
"Throughout the 20th century, manufacturing was the ticket to a better life for generations of American workers," Obama said, according to The White House Blog. "It was the furnace that forged our middle class. But over time, the jobs dried up. Companies learned to do more with less, and outsourced whatever they could. Other nations didn't always live up to trade agreements and we didn't always enforce them."
Under the bill, U.S. manufacturers are forced to apply for a tariff reduction or suspension. The request are then reviewed by the Obama administration, two congressional committees and the U.S. International Trade Commission. If there is no domestic opposition, the relief will be granted. However, the suspensions are only temporary and can be restored if an American business begins manufacturing a product covered under the bill.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the measure would save U.S. companies $298 million over three years and reduce the federal deficit by $5 million over the next decade.
The bill will provide a badly needed boost to the nation's manufacturing sector, according to The National Association of Manufacturers, which claims it will boost output by $4.6 billion and create 90,000 jobs.