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WASHINGTON, DC–A survey produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and Deloitte found that North American manufacturers consider the US the most desirable country for expansion in the near future. The survey, Made in North America, reflects the views of 321 high-ranking executives in a broad range of North American manufacturing companies of all sizes.

According to the report, 44% of North American companies say they intend to expand production in the US over the next three years. Smaller percentages say they have expansion plans for other countries and regions. However, despite the results, respondents expressed concerns about the nation’s manufacturing climate in terms of competing in the global market. While 57% of US manufacturers hope to increase their share of international sales, they indicate improved performance partly depends on a shift in government policies to boost their competitiveness.

“Manufacturers cited controlling labor costs, enacting favorable tax policies and assisting with the severe shortage of skilled manufacturing workers, including engineers, scientists and technicians, as the top three areas that policymakers should address to help improve their global competitiveness,” says Emily DeRocco, senior vice president of NAM and president of the Manufacturing Institute, NAM’s research, education and workforce affiliate. “With an election on the horizon, US candidates should redouble their efforts to explain how they will address these major pressure points and improve prospects for a continued strong manufacturing production base in America.”

According to DeRocco, structural non-production costs such as corporate tax rates, employee benefits, legal costs, natural gas prices and pollution abatement costs for US manufacturers are more than 30% higher than the average for our major trading partners. She says the difference represents a significant and long-term problem for the nation’s manufacturers. Nearly 80% of respondents identified tax cuts for manufacturers as the key means to promote innovation and research. “Clearly, Congress needs to extend the R&D credit that expired at the end of last year,” maintains DeRocco.

The NAM exec says survey results challenge conventional views on how North American manufacturers view tree-trade agreements. Contrary to widely held perceptions, she notes, manufacturers generally paint a positive picture of their experiences with the North American Free Trade Agreement, with almost half saying NAFTA helped them become more competitive. By contrast, only 10% say it has hurt their business and the remaining 41% indicate it did not affect them one way or the other.

“On the trade policy side, the significant competitive momentum that is felt among US manufacturers in this survey is reflected by the surge in US export sales that has stabilized the US economy this year,” says Frank Vargo NAM vice president for international economic affairs. “This report is a clarion call to negotiate and approve free trade agreements that will knock down barriers to US exports. Congress should heed the news in this report and vote to strengthen the ability of North American-based manufacturers to compete effectively in the global economy.”

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