Tough road ahead for WTO talks, and the manufacturing agenda

We at the National Association of Manufacturers came away from the most recent round of trade talks pleased with the effort by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and U.S. negotiators to hold the line in Hong Kong, but deeply regretful that the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting did not make the tough decisions needed to negotiate cuts in manufactured goods trade barriers.


We at the National Association of Manufacturers came away from the most recent round of trade talks pleased with the effort by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and U.S. negotiators to hold the line in Hong Kong, but deeply regretful that the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting did not make the tough decisions needed to negotiate cuts in manufactured goods trade barriers.

Despite the determined efforts by U.S. negotiators, the WTO ministers didn't agree on meaningful guidelines for negotiating manufactured goods trade. Basically, the ministers just kicked the can down the road and pushed the tough decisions out to April 2006.

As an observer at the talks, I did walk away with some good news in that the Hong Kong text calls for sectoral negotiations in addition to a tariff formula. That's important, because the sectoral negotiations are vital. There are 20 or so U.S. industries pressing for such sectoral agreements -- including in electronics, chemicals, wood products and others.

But the other decisions we wanted were not made -- like a meaningful formula that would cut into real tariff rates, or emphasis on non-tariff barriers. The NAM was hoping that ministers would make such fundamental decisions on how tariffs would be cut, how non-trade barriers could be negotiated, and the like. Those decisions did not come. Instead, the WTO ministers are leaving us with four more months of wandering around the desert without a compass.

The problem with this is that a lot of countries don't agree with the basic premise that they have to cut their tariffs on our exports of manufactured goods. They still see the Doha Round (of WTO talks) as essentially a one-way deal in which the U.S. opens up its agricultural market, ends agricultural subsidies and cuts the few remaining high industrial tariffs (textiles, clothing, footwear and light trucks) while they basically do nothing.

Still, the U.S. negotiators didn't lose anything and no doors were shut on us. Hong Kong also may have cleared out some of the underbrush that has diverted attention from the big trade-affecting issues, setting the stage for progress in 2006.

The meeting also heightened pressure on the European Union to move further in opening up access to its agricultural market, which is an absolute prerequisite to moving ahead. We all know the path to cutting manufactured goods barriers goes through agriculture.

Work still ahead

We are left with a lot of heavy lifting ahead, and we are going to redouble our efforts to get a final agreement that will slash trade barriers blocking manufactured goods. Manufactured goods are 75% of world trade, and we need a realization that cutting industrial trade barriers is an essential part of a comprehensive Doha Round Agreement.

One way of contributing to this is the new alliance we just formed in Hong Kong among U.S., European, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Korean, and other manufacturers. We have joined together for the first time and agreed to develop a common approach and common strategy - and we intend to make our voice heard in the coming months.

Without a clear statement from the ministers that one goal of the Doha Round is to cut the tariffs that are applied on manufactured goods, the existing disagreement is likely to continue. At the end of the day, will we get enough to make the deal worthwhile? There is no way to know yet, and we just have to keep trying.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me