Much is being made about such things as free trade and protection due to the upcoming election. Most of the discussion is about money and jobs, but very little is being said about product quality, a very important, and often overlooked variable that is extremely important to business and influenced by overseas interactions. As an example, some time ago India decided to build its industry through tariffs and other methods of protection to encourage its citizens to buy goods made in India. But of course, the quality of many of its industrial products slipped with respect to those made in other countries. When they finally realized this, they began tearing down such protective measures and more actively competing globally. They are in the midst of this process, and it is not an easy one. Such companies as Mahindra, a large manufacturer of tractors, and Tata, a large manufacturer of almost everything, are finally being recognized globally. And the quality of their products is improving, as it must if they are to do a better job of competing globally.
It is strange that those that are pushing for “protection” do not seem to think about product quality and how it is encouraged by free global competition, especially since those doing so (Trump) have an example right in their own back yard —the automobile business. Were it not for the Japanese, the Europeans, and now the Koreans, we might all be driving cars closer to 1970’s Pontiacs. They certainly would be more expensive, were it not for what is sometimes called the “Toyota Production System”. The U.S. automobile business had gotten trapped by complacency (U.S. cars are obviously the best, since they are designed and built by U.S. people in U.S. factories, U.S. citizens don’t like small cars, the big V-8 is the best of all engines, etc). It took foreign competition to wake it up and show it some new tricks.
But politicians are more comfortable dealing with complex situations that they can offer simplistic solutions to (medical care, taxes, immigration) than things like product quality, that encompass emotional and cultural factors as well as functional and economic. For the sake of our future, and our economy, we had better stay more in touch with what is going on in the world, rather than less, and one good way to do that is to compete through free trade. And as another argument, that is the future. U. S. business is not going to give up foreign markets, less costly labor, material, and services, and learning from the accomplishments of their overseas competitors. Nor are we consumers going to accept paying more for lower quality products.