On an elementary level, just out of curiosity, I decided to see what all the stink was about having a fair trade agreement with China.
Not being a true political hack—though admittedly quite opinionated in some areas—I just wanted to see what an average person like myself sported in the way of necessary and frivolous household items.
My tried and true method of research went as far as checking my kitchen to see what kind of “Buy American” consumer I am.
I counted all the major appliances plus dishes, coffee cups, carving knives, spatulas and teapots. Basically, I included anything I bought at a store to stock my kitchen.
Without even looking hard I came up with 21 out of 34 everyday use items that were made in China. Two items were made in Taiwan, and one Cusinart hand blender had only parts made in the USA.
Then I began wondering how many American-made items an average kitchen in China would look like.
My only experience with Chinese kitchens was in the early 1980s when I spent more time in Hong Kong than I did at home. I was a flight attendant for Flying Tiger Line flying refugees out of South East Asia.
Hong Kong was a five-day layover point full of shopping, sightseeing and dancing in the hotel night club until the wee hours.
While there, my flying partners and I made friends with some of the locals. One fellow named Steve, in his late 20s invited us to his home where his mother cooked dinner for us. They lived on the 17th floor of a huge apartment high rise right in the middle of the city.
In cooking an entire, delicious meal for us, the only utensils Steve’s mother used were a huge wok and a small rice cook pot. She deftly turned the seasoned meat and vegetables with chopsticks. The family, which consisted of only Steve and her, had a small refrigerator and a few dishes in a wash rack.
They weren’t poor, because Steve had a good sales job and dressed like a millionaire, but unlike most Americans, they knew the true meaning of “austere living.”
So what does China need from us besides billions of dollars in tons and tons of scrap metal and soybeans?
According to Forbes, they buy aircraft parts, plastic materials (which nobody in the world really wants to take in anymore), copper, organic chemicals, aluminum, passenger cars, industrial machinery, pulpwood and paper.
In return, the United States spends almost twice the amount of imports on computers, every kind of household item imaginable, toys, clothes and textiles, TVs, VCRs, furniture, and the controversial and so important Nike footwear.
Basically this is everything Americans buy on a regular basis.
Simply put—because I can’t go too deep on these kinds of subjects—according to a blog by marketing writer Kenneth Raposa on forbes.com, as US trade to China increases, China consumers get richer, their currency gets stronger which is a good thing.
Further, on a site from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, from the Office of the President, the writer stated, “U.S. goods and services trade with China totaled an estimated $737.1 billion in 2018. Exports were $179.3 billion; imports to the the U.S. were $557.9 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficits with China was $378.6 billion in 2018.”
So from this and other research I’ve tried to make sense of, it appears that we American consumers are not ready to live that austere life.
And, what I’ve learned about myself is—I don’t really need a new Ray Dum Woof Jar for my dog’s kibbles or another coffee maker for the next 10 years.