http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/robert-samuelson-can-...To Americans, some aspects of deglobalization will seem delicious. Take manufacturing. Globalization has sucked factory jobs from the United States. Now, the tide may be turning. Just recently, Apple announced a $100 million investment to return some Mac computer production home. Though tiny, the decision reflects a trend.GE is returning production of water heaters, refrigerators and other appliances to Appliance Park from China and Mexico. Year-end employment is reckoned at 3,600, up 90 percent from a year earlier, writes Charles Fishman in an excellent article in December’s Atlantic.Nor is GE alone, Fishman notes. Otis is moving some elevator production from Mexico to South Carolina. Wham-O is shifting Frisbee molding from China to California.China’s labor cost advantage has eroded, it argues. In 2000, Chinese factory wages averaged 52 cents an hour, but annual double-digit percentage increases will bring that to $6 an hour in high-skilled industries by 2015. Although wages of U.S. production workers average $19 an hour, BCG argues that other non-wage factors favor the United States. American workers are more productive; automation has reduced labor’s share of expenses; and cheap natural gas further reduces costs. Finally, higher oil prices have boosted freight rates for imports.By 2015, China’s overall cost advantage will shrivel to 7 percentThe United States will be a more attractive production platform. Imports will weaken; exports will strengthen.Of course, globalization won’t vanish. It’s too big and too entwined with national economies.But globalization’s character may change.For years, the world economy has been wildly lopsided: China and some other countries ran big trade surpluses; the United States was perennially in massive deficit. Similar imbalances existed in Europe. Now, slumps have dampened the American and European appetite for imports. The upshot is that “China and others are recalibrating their export-led economic strategies” to focus more on domestic demand, argues economist Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute. That’s good, he says; the world economy will be more balanced. Likewise, erratic capital flows have triggered past financial crises. Slower flows may promote stability.Not everyone is so optimistic. Smick fears damaging outcomes: currency wars as countries strive to capture greater shares of stagnant export markets and burst “asset bubbles” caused by easy money.
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