Thursday, February 9, 2017

What Is Manufacturing? Why Does the Definition Matter?

"Numerous provisions in federal law are intended to support manufacturing in the United States. Almost without exception, these provisions define manufacturing as the process of physically transforming goods. Physical transformation involves what might be thought of as traditional manufacturing activities such as molding, cutting, and assembly. These laws establish a variety of potential benefits, preferences, or penalties based on the country in which physical transformation occurs.

 By and large, federal supports targeted specifically at manufacturing rest on two implicit premises that have been rendered questionable as a result of developments in the private sector.
  • Each manufactured product is assumed to have a single country of origin. The determination of whether a product is American-made is binary; either it was made in the United States or it is an import. This assumption fits uneasily with the global value chains now widely used by manufacturers to combine raw materials, components, services, and intellectual property from multiple countries into a single, finished manufactured good.
  • Physical transformation is assumed to be the means by which manufacturing creates economic benefits. Under a variety of statutes, the fact that other activities related to making a product are conducted in the United States is not relevant to the determination of whether the product is made in the United States. This is generally the case even if those activities account for a large proportion of the value of the finished good or of the employment related to the good’s production. Conversely, a good may be treated as U.S.-made if significant parts are of U.S. origin and if the good was transformed in the United States, even if all research, design, software development, and other nonphysical activities related to its production occurred in other countries...."

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