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More jobs, money to China – hurray!

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

Two million jobs lost in the past decade. A quarter of a trillion dollar trade deficit just last year. And now we in Waynesboro are supposed to be jumping up and down happy about how Reo Hatfield wants to help China take more of our jobs and our money back to Asia?

The headlines in the paper and the live shots on the TV would make you think that it’s good news that Reo Distribution is working out the details of an agreement with a Chinese furniture company to establish a distribution center for its products here in Waynesboro.

And it is good news – for Reo Distribution, which is throwing around numbers like 200 new jobs and $5 million in increased revenues that seem to me to be a bit overstated, but hey, they’re not my numbers, so I’ll grant them leeway given that that’s what they’re saying and hope that they make them come true. But what’s good news for Reo isn’t necessarily going to be good news for Waynesboro, and sure as hell ain’t going to be good news for America, given what’s been happening on the China-U.S. trade front the past 10 years.

According to the Washington, D.C.,-based Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. economy has lost 2.2 million manufacturing jobs to China in the past decade. The job loss in Virginia in that same time frame was 40,000. (Think Stanley Furniture. Those of you who’ve been here long enough already were, I’m sure.) Now, I’ve got nothing against Alwin Ho, the president of the Beijing-based Songhua Furniture Co. I’m pleased as peaches that he’s been in business for nine years, and that he employs 300 people in producing furniture and pre-fabricated homes. Seriously, good for him. Obviously the guy knows what he’s doing. He told NBC29 last night that he’s already doing business in several foreign countries.

So he needs our help here in Waynesboro … why, again? And I say help because the big deal with this story has to do with the new duty-free zone that’s been set up at Reo Distribution. I realize that the term duty-free zone might be so much gobbledigook, but here’s what it means in plain English – they don’t have to pay the fees to enter the U.S. market that our manufacturers have to pay to be able to enter the Chinese market.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t already in the throes of a trade imbalance with China that last year was at $256 billion (with a b), but we’re hemorrhaging money and jobs and quality of life to China as it is.

Thanks, but I’m not giggles giddy about how we’re inviting Chinese companies to Waynesboro to take more of our money and jobs and quality of life back to the Far East, just the same.

augusta free press
augusta free press