National column: How trade spreads holiday cheer

This Christmas Eve, it is only fitting to discuss what truly makes the holidays so special: Global trade, writes Laura Collins.

The holidays are upon us, when families gather to exchange presents and watch little ones joyfully tear wrapping paper to get to the gift inside. Whether you prefer to give Barbies, LEGOs, smart phones, or automobiles, American gift givers have a dizzying array of choices at every price point.

It is projected that the typical American household will spend more than $900 this year during the holidays. So, it is only fitting to discuss what truly makes the holidays so special: Global trade.

Most presents under the tree this year will be manufactured outside of the United States, including gifts made in the United States that likely have components from foreign countries.

Even Santa Claus benefits from global trade. Despite having the world’s most skilled toy manufacturers, elves, Santa surely imports raw materials. After all, the North Pole is not rich in natural resources and toy components do not appear by magic.

According to our North America Competitiveness Scorecard, North America continues to be the world’s most competitive economic region. This is due to NAFTA’s regional supply chains and manufacturing platforms. Here is a snapshot of Christmas gifts, both classic and modern, that reach your tree with the help of global trade.

DOLLS

Whether you prefer Mattel’s Barbie, Hasbro’s Baby Alive, or the now ubiquitous American Girl and her 18-inch doll counterparts, dolls are a staple of Santa’s toy bag.

Each of these companies manufacture their products overseas. American Girl dolls are made in China. Hasbro has facilities in China and around the globe. Mattel has facilities in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and NAFTA-member Mexico. Mattel was even ahead of the global trade curve, making the original Barbie in Japan in the late 1950s.

LEGO

LEGO, the much-beloved and iconic brand of plastic building bricks, is a family-owned Danish company that manufactures and distributes its products globally. LEGO manufactures in China, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and NAFTA-member Mexico.

Its manufacturing plants are strategically located around the world to help it meet the demand at a cost that is accessible for consumers. LEGO building sets have a wide price range and cover many age groups. A classic box of bricks can be bought for less than $5, while the elaborate building sets can cost hundreds of dollars.

SMART PHONES

Whether you prefer Samsung, Apple or another brand of smart phone, chances are high that its processor and other component parts come from many places and is assembled in Asia.

In 2015, South Korea-based Samsung had manufacturing plants in six countries — Vietnam, South Korea, China, India, Brazil and Indonesia. Apple uses suppliers from around the globe, with a heavy emphasis on China, to create components for its products, including the iPhone.

AUTOMOBILES

If the commercials touting cars with giant red bows on them are any indication, automobiles make great Christmas gifts. For American gift-givers, this is the gift category most profoundly impacted by global trade, particularly by NAFTA.

The automobile market in the United States, for both U.S. and foreign car companies, is dependent on a North American supply chain to stay competitive. NAFTA reduced or eliminated tariffs across the continent and automobile sector, allowing vehicles to be manufactured at the most cost-effective locations, lowering consumer prices and keeping the U.S. auto industry competitive in the global economy.

Foreign brands such as Volkswagen, Toyota, Audi and Honda make the vehicles they sell to Americans in North America. American consumers benefit from the variety increase and cost reduction that NAFTA provides in this sector.

Without NAFTA, Americans could still give cars to their loved ones, but the vehicles would more than likely be made in Europe or Asia rather than in North America.

So, as you sip eggnog and open gifts on Christmas Day, remember the vital role global trade plays in filling Santa’s toy bag and spreading holiday cheer.


Laura Collins is deputy director of economic growth at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.


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