By now, you're probably aware of Walmart's 10-year, $250 billion pledge to source American-made goods for its U.S. stores. The retailer has publicized the job-igniting effort with TV ads celebrating U.S. manufacturing and the middle class. Voiceovers by all-American pitchman Mike Rowe serenaded reshoring supporters' ears.
Let's forget for a second that Walmart was one of the biggest offshorers for years, moving manufacturing and jobs out of American hands. And never mind that one ad misguidedly uses a Canadian band's song about the plight of "the working man." Behind the patriotism and slick production values drafted by its PR machine, Walmart wants suppliers to reshore because it makes business sense -- just as it made free-market sense to go overseas before -- now that labor costs in China have risen and sophisticated total cost of ownership modeling tools prove it does.
Walmart or any business does not exist to employ people, but it's hard to root against a move that results in American jobs. There is, however, a sense of irony with bringing back the production of footwear, sporting goods, and housewares as China's economy matures and it closes the gap with the West in making high-tech and advanced products.
William Ng, Editor-in-Chief