Between 2001 and 2006 Walmart played a large role in the growth of the U.S. trade deficit with China. China’s exports to Walmart accounted for 11% of this deficit.
Walmart’s decision to outsource manufacturing to China was one of the reasons behind the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing, especially at the low end. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Walmart’s imports helped to destroy 200,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs.
China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) was supposed to improve the U.S. trade deficit with China and create good jobs in the United States. But those promises have gone unfulfilled: the total U.S. trade deficit with China reached $235 billion in 2006. Between 2001 and 2006, this growing deficit eliminated 1.8 million U.S. jobs (Scott 2007). The world’s biggest retailer, U.S.-based Wal-Mart was responsible for $27 billion in U.S. imports from China in 2006 and 11% of the growth of the total U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period.
The manufacturing sector and its workers were hardest hit by the growth of Wal-Mart’s imports. Wal-Mart’s increased trade deficit with China eliminated 133,000 manufacturing jobs, 68% of those jobs lost from Wal-Mart’s imports. Jobs in the manufacturing sector pay higher wages and provide better benefits than most other industries, especially for workers with less than a college education.
China has achieved its rapidly growing trade surpluses by purchasing more than $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills and other government securities over the past few years in order to artificially and illegally reduce the value of its currency and thereby lower the cost of its exports to the United States and other countries. It has also repressed the labor rights of its workers and suppressed their wages, making its products artificially cheap and further subsidizing its exports. Wal-Mart has aided China’s abuse of labor rights and its violations of internally recognized norms of fair trade behavior by providing a vast and growing conduit for the distribution of artificially cheap and subsidized Chinese exports to the United States.
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U.S. exports to China in 2001 supported 189,000 jobs, but U.S. imports displaced production that would have supported 1,190,000 jobs. Therefore, the $84.1 billion trade deficit in 2001 displaced 1 million jobs in that year. Job displacement rose to 2,763,000 in 2006. Growth in trade deficits with China has reduced demand for goods produced in every region of the United States and has led to job displacement in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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