13 April 2018   Leave a comment

Surprisingly, US President Trump indicated today that he is thinking about rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement with 11 other Pacific countries negotiated by President Obama.  The 12 countries negotiated the agreement without China’s participation on the assumption that if all twelve were to agree on all matters, then, when was invited to join, it would have no choice but to accept the terms of the TPP.  The main sticking point was agreement on the protection of intellectual property, an issue on which the Chinese have been notoriously obstreperous.  US President Trump savaged the agreement during the presidential campaign (see the video below).  Apparently, President Trump now believes that the TPP offers the best negotiating position vis-a-vis the Chinese.  But the 11 Pacific countries proceeded with the agreement after Mr. Trump pulled the US out, and it is not a clear bet that they will now welcome the re-entry of the US.  Mr. Trump also wants to join the TPP in order to placate US farmers who stand to lose significant markets if the Chinese make good their threats of retaliatory tariffs on US products.

 

Textiles are one of the major products that essentially tracked the process of globalization.  Textile mills started in Great Britain, then moved to the northeast of the US, then to the southern US, then to China, then to Vietnam, and finally to Bangladesh.  The manufacturers of textiles basically followed the path to the cheapest labor market.  Textiles may no longer follow this track since robotics are being developed to the point where virtually no labor at all will be required.  According to the IEEE Spectrum:

“Sometime later this year, dozens of robots will spring into action at a new factory in Little Rock, Ark. The plant will not make cars or electronics, nor anything else that robots are already producing these days. Instead it will make T-shirts—lots of T-shirts. When fully operational, these sewing robots will churn them out at a dizzying rate of one every 22 seconds.”

Robotization of textiles was considered highly unlikely since the raw material of most clothes is impossible to standardize:  fabrics are highly pliable and each cut differs from every other.  The solution for robots?  Don’t measure the fabrics; just count the threads.  High-speed cameras, operating at 1,000 frames per second, make it possible to cut and sew based on the number of threads in each piece of fabric.  Who knows how many jobs will be lost to this miracle of modern science?

Posted April 13, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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