Ohio’s Globalized Economy Belies Its America First Politics

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In the race to replace retiring Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, you’ll hear plenty of China-bashing and the ills of globalization in this quintessentially Midwestern state. What you don’t hear in this persistently xenophobic but crucial race for a U.S. Senate seat is how much Ohio benefits from globalization.

The seventh-largest state, with a gross domestic product of $736 billion, owes much of its prosperity to the growing interdependence of the world economy, second only to California, Texas and Florida. That’s based on 771 active foreign factories in Ohio, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Of the 10 largest U.S. states, Ohio has the most foreign-owned factories per thousand square miles.

The two men in the race to succeed Portman, who negotiated and signed deals with China and Mexico among about 30 countries as President George W. Bush’s U.S. trade representative, did not say those unpleasant facts. They also never mentioned that business with China and Mexico they condemn is embraced by nearly every Ohio company, from Cincinnati-based personal care maker Procter & Gamble to Columbus-based family-owned Panacea Products Corp.

Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman since 2003, has repeatedly reminded voters that “one of the first bills I received was to punish China for currency manipulation. I fought hard for tariffs on Chinese steel,” he said. said in an October debate with JD Vance, a Republican venture capitalist and author of Donald Trump-backed “Hillbilly Dirge.” “Why is China taking so many American jobs?” Vance asked. “One of the reasons is that energy is too expensive. Without quality energy, modern industrial manufacturing is impossible.”

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But where would Ohio’s economy be without China, its important trading partners, and other foreign demand for its goods? Ohio imported $10.2 billion in goods from China in 2020, the largest supplier after Canada, and exported $3.6 billion to China, making it the third-largest customer after Canada and Mexico. China happens to be a major supplier to Wal-Mart, Ohio’s No. 1 employer with more than 55,000 employees earning an average hourly wage of $17.39. The next Ohio international trade chart is from the globalEDGE website created by Michigan State University:

Procter & Gamble, Ohio’s No. 1 company with a market value of $320 billion, has grown its overseas sales 12 percent over the past three years to 54.5 percent of total revenue. Greater China has contributed 8% to 10% of global sales over the past decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sherwin-Williams Co., a Cleveland-based paint maker and Ohio’s third-largest company, sells $4.2 billion worth of products overseas each year, up 5​​​ from three years ago, with exports accounting for 35 percent of total sales 20%. Even though 80% of its sales are in the United States, 41% of Sherwin-Williams suppliers come from overseas companies. Over the past decade, Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has sold nearly 50 percent of its products overseas. New Albany-based apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reported that 60 percent of its new store openings are outside the U.S., up from 41 percent three years ago, according to Bloomberg data.

Ryan, Vance and their respective parties are equally against Japan’s Honda Motor, Germany’s Siemens, Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, France’s Air Liquide and India’s Tata Steel.The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organized a working group of former policy makers in both Democratic and Republican administrations that found it in a 2018 study, “Is U.S. Foreign Policy Serving Ohio’s Middle Class?” concludes that political antipathy to global trade will be in a minority of Ohioans who remain “concerned that erratic trade policies will undermine Ohio’s ability to attract foreign investment and [they] Make it clear that they welcome investment from China. ”

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Ohio’s citizens’ words and deeds on globalization are “based on research that my colleagues and I have done,” says Bill Shkurti, who retired in 2010 as Ohio State’s vice president of business and finance and is Former director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. “Without Honda, we would lose 15,000 automotive jobs,” he said in a Zoom interview last month. “Ohio has lost about half of its manufacturing jobs since its peak in the early 60s. The biggest culprit is automation. We have half as many people in manufacturing now as we did 50 years ago. But the value of the products they produce Twice as much as 50 years ago. If Ohio doesn’t automate and stay competitive, we could lose more jobs.”

“There is definitely xenophobia among Ohioans,” which “masks the reality” that “most Ohioans will be shocked to hear how globalized we are,” said Paul Baker, professor emeritus at Ohio State University, Ohio State Distinguished Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University and former Head of the Department of Political Science. “Procter & Gamble probably has the highest percentage of employees’ children who speak a foreign language. But I don’t hear that from P&G.”

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Ryan, “from the Rust Belt, has spent his career berating Canada, Mexico and China for job losses” and he doesn’t acknowledge “the reality of the globalization of jobs in Ohio” and profits, Baker interviewed on Zoom. “I grew up in a small town in Indiana, and my mother was the daughter of someone who ran a hardware store there,” he said. “When Walmart came into town, it destroyed the hardware store market,” Baker said. “She’ll never go into Walmart.” But when she needs something and “Walmart is the only place to get it, she’ll say ‘I’ll ride with you to the store, but I’m not going in because Wal-Mart is the enemy.'” So, I went in. I have no problem. “

Neither does Congressman, trade representative and Senator Portman of the past 30 years. Automation may have replaced traditional factory workers, but globalization has kept Ohio at work. More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Republicans have no plan to fix the economy: Alison Schrager

• How has the Republican policy agenda changed? In: Jonathan Bernstein

• Abortion may not be a victory issue for Democrats: Ramesh Ponnuru

——With the help of Shen Pei.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Bloomberg News editor emeritus Matthew A. Winkler writes about the market.

More stories like this can be found at bloomberg.com/opinion

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