We believe in creating a safe space for inquiry into win-win solutions on both the supply side (manufacturing and distribution) as well as the demand side (consumption) of sharing trade.
Here are a few of the ideas we are currently exploring:
REDUCE LEGAL AND FINANCIAL BARRIERS TO EXPORT. Governments worldwide need to embrace free trade and make it easier for their citizens to export products to other markets. Likewise, governments need to be open to imports. Just as each individual has a unique role to play and life purpose, each country has a set of unique comparative advantages in trade. Policies should allow each country to develop and capitalize on its comparative advantage. A rising tide lifts all boats. Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, which authorizes the Obama Administration to negotiate trade agreements, and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which takes steps to reduce bureaucracy at the US border, are examples of legislation that would help.
REDUCE SHIPPING COSTS FOR EXPORTS. Small and medium-sized businesses do not have the scale to obtain competitive shipping rates from providers such as UPS, Fedex, and USPS to ship to customers overseas. Large marketplaces such as eBay that allow small businesses to sell goods could use their purchasing power to pass on lower shipping costs to small business shippers and their customers.. The U.S. could adopt a low flat-rate shipping free for small- and medium-sized businesses shipping overseas (similar to the low costs Chinese citizens pay to ship to the U.S.). USPS could potentially take on the role of leading low-cost export shipper and thus increase its shipment volume; however it would ideally need to improve its package tracking systems which are currently less reliable Fedex and UPS.
IMPROVED INTERNATIONAL MARKET DATA FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. Local manufacturers need better data on demand for their products overseas. Likewise, they need better support on navigating overseas import laws, duties and taxes. A simple website or Wiki would be helpful, as would greater investment in people with local, sector-specific knowledge and relationships to help small businesses connect with customers and distributors in a foreign market. See our blog post on Portland Development Council's Pop-Up Portland for a model of how this could be done.
- IGNITE LOCAL, HIGH-END MANUFACTURING. In the U.S., invest in "in-sourcing" platforms such as Maker's Row, which connects designers and retailers with U.S. factories. Develop local manufacturing hubs in cities like Portland, OR and Detroit, MI for high-quality, small-scale, high value-added, and/or customized manufacturing -- what we believe U.S.'s likely comparative advantage in the global manufacturing sector. Leverage technology through partnerships with Silicon Valley. Maintain manufacturing and design prototyping hubs in tech-savvy cities like San Francisco and New York City.
- BRING CASH INVESTMENT BACK TO THE U.S., AND INVEST IT IN THE MANUFACTURING AND DESIGN SECTORS. Reduce corporate tax rates and simplify the corporate tax code: current high comparative rates to other countries and tax loop holes mean that companies like GE pay virtually no corporate tax and companies like Apple are keeping piles of cash overseas. Bring the cash back to invest in the U.S., and perhaps even ask large corporations to "adopt" small- and medium-sized businesses by providing them with manufacturing investment and expertise.
- MARKET PRODUCTS USING UNIVERSAL HUMAN VALUES. Nationalistic campaigns such as "Made in America" only serve to increase resistance to trade and friendship across boundaries. Leaders worldwide need to understand that there are certain universal human ideals that transcend national borders and which are reflected in iconic products such as the Apple computer.
- ENCOURAGE CROSS-BORDER TRADE AND COLLABORATION. Share information about consumer trends and demands and increase imports and cross-border collaborations between businesses that combine local customer knowledge with overseas manufacturing expertise. The possibilities are limitless.
AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING...
Do you have additional ideas, experiences and insights to share? Feel free to comment on social media or contact us. Please keep comments positive and constructive in the spirit of shared learning and arriving at win-win solutions.