The Move to Free Trade
The modern global economy was driven by the deregulation of the 1980s, spearheaded by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States. The theory was that by eliminating government-applied tariffs, quotas, subsidies or prohibitions on goods and services, companies would become more efficient and foreign competition would drive down prices, raising the quality of life for participating nations and improving foreign relations.
NAFTA is a good example of free trade that has largely worked. Regional trade increased from about $290 billion in 1993 to over $1.2 trillion in 2017, while cross-border investment shot up. Some jobs have been lost, others have been created, and consumers have benefited from increased competition.
The effect of trade with China is more controversial. China became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001 and, in 2013, it surpassed the United States as the largest trading nation on the planet. Many of the durable goods that were previously manufactured in North America are now made in China. As well, China dominates the manufacture of advanced-technology products.
It can be argued that trade with China has led to a redistribution of wealth, from the working class in North America to those at the top of the multi-national food chains. No doubt, there has been a profound effect on the job and wage prospects for non-college-educated workers.
The Coming Renaissance of Local Manufacturing
There is hope for those adversely affected by global trade. It comes by way of the increasing viability of local manufacturing, enabled by very powerful personal computers, low-cost computer-aided-design and rapid prototyping, combined with recent breakthroughs in the engineering of equipment. Progressively, more low-cost, energy-efficient machinery is available for the production of plastic, glass, ceramic or electronic parts. It is no longer necessary to invest multi-millions in monolithic equipment in order to be competitive.
Local manufacturing means responding to orders in days if not hours, compared to weeks or months from China, with minimal shipping costs.
Omachron Technologies is at the forefront of this emerging wave. It now has the equipment for the manufacture of both small and large plastic parts, equipment that is reliable, low cost, uses little energy and occupies a small footprint. Next up, in about 24 months, is machinery for the manufacture of metal and glass parts.
Plastic waste is a huge problem around the world. Recycling currently requires up to 90% virgin plastic mixed with regrind. The equipment to extrude or injection mold is large and inefficient. This makes recycling in many countries expensive, difficult and economically not viable.
Omachron’s new equipment can use 100% waste plastic to make valuable finished goods. Local manufacturing thrives. The environment wins.