In spite of unprecedented global competition, the United States remains the world leader in manufacturing.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturing produces $1.6 trillion of value each year, representing 21% of world-wide output. This equates to 11% of our gross domestic product (GDP).

All of this doesn't mean that the U.S. lead isn't shrinking, especially to China, which is poised to pass Japan as the world's No. 2 industrial power. Nor does it negate the fact that the U.S. has lost some 2 million high-paying manufacturing jobs, many of them in woodworking, in recent years.

What our elected leaders do - employment and environmental policies, for example - or don't do - create manufacturing investment incentives - go a long way to impact our ability to compete against some very aggressive foreign competitors. With this firmly in mind, NAM recently issued white paper: "A Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs."

Free Advice for Washington Leaders
The NAM's report offers guidance to Washington policymakers for strengthening U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and creating jobs. Woodworking isn't mentioned by name, but many of NAM's principles would benefit our industry.

Among NAM's checklist, that I think would have a significant positive impact on the domestic wood products industry, include the following:

* Create a pro-manufacturing tax climate. Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent or lower, promote fair rules for taxation of active foreign income of U.S.-based businesses, institute permanent lower tax rates for individuals and small businesses.

* Encourage a dynamic labor market. Oppose new federal regulations that dictate rigid work rules, wages and benefits. Reject regulations that introduce conflict into employer-employee relations.

* Implement a common-sense, fair approach to legal reform. Provide clear standards for liability and justice for all parties, including specific statutes of limitations, sanctions on frivolous claims and limits on punitive damages.

* Create a regulatory environment that promotes economic growth. Balance costs and benefits of regulations preventing the improvisation of regulatory burdens, defend the policymaking role of Congress by the opposing to circumvention through regulatory rule making.

* Enact tax provision that will stimulate investment and recovery. Strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit.

* Promote progressive international trade policy that opens global markets and reduces regulatory and tariff barriers due to currency exchange rates, ownership restrictions and various "national champion strategies."

* Assist exporting by small- and medium-sized manufacturing through expanded export promotion programs as well as export credit assistance for both small and large firms.

The November election put the Republican Party back in control of Congress. It will be interesting to see how President Barack Obama works or doesn't work with the newly transformed Congress in the coming two years, especially as he tries to prove himself worthy of a second term.

Stay tuned. 

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.

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