Osram Sylvania Responds to Criticism from Donald Trump

KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republican Donald Trump talked trade at a shuttered Osram manufacturing plant in New Hampshire, putting a more personal spin on his vow to rip up the nation’s trade deals and impose new tariffs in an effort to revive local manufacturing jobs.

Speaking to a small, invitation-only crowd outside the closed Osram Sylvania plant, which used to manufacture lighting products, Trump again called for backing away from decades of U.S. policy that encouraged trade with other nations. The approach marks a departure from the free-trade tenants of conservative orthodoxy, and has been panned by Democrats as well as the usually Republican-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which warned it would lead to millions of job losses and a recession.

Trump used the factory, which closed in 2014 and moved some of the 139 jobs moved to a plant in Mexico, as an example of the human toll of trade deals like NAFTA. And he put the blame solely on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who signed the deal.

“This legacy is largely due – and you could actually say entirely due — to NAFTA,” he said, adding: “The real Clinton Global Initiative is their economic plan to ship America’s jobs overseas.”

Osram Sylvania spokesman Glen Gracia gave a statement to tED magazine. We have decided to provide it for you unedited so you can see the entire response from the company:

“The lighting industry is undergoing a fundamental change from
conventional to LED-based technologies. As the result of this change,
lighting companies including Osram have been adjusting their global
production capacities to account for the decline in demand for
traditional lighting products, like produced in Manchester. It
functioned as a high­intensity discharge (HID) lamps assembly and
laboratory. Over the last three years, we have seen HID decline 25-30
percent. Transfer of some of these production lines and equipment went
to OSRAM locations in Juarez, Mexico and Foshan, China in order to
consolidate production. It is important to note this was due to
decreasing sales due to the technology shift to LED lighting, not any
free trade agreements.

“OSRAM SYLVANIA is strongly committed to the U.S. with tens of millions of
dollars in investments in New England alone, helping secure our leading
position in the global and US lighting market. These investments are
benefiting the local area. For example in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, we
produce industry first LED technology on the completely redesigned 2015
Ford F-150, part of Ford F-Series, America’s best-selling pickup truck.
As the result of innovations such as this, we have over approximately 200
jobs in this region focused on LED automotive lighting technology.
In addition, our Hillsboro factory manufactures millions of headlights
and signal bulbs each year used in a majority of the vehicles on the road
today and is one of the largest employers in the area.”

In fairness, we are also not editing the video of the Trump campaign event at the Osram plant to allow you to see all of it in the context in which it was presented.

YouTube video courtesy of Right Side Broadcasting.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2007, is part of what led to the use of more energy-efficient lighting and caused the lower demand in products made at the Osram plant, Gracia said.

Trump argued that some incentives, such as interest-free loans, that have been used to keep companies in the country are ineffective. Instead, he’s proposing a 35 percent tariff on goods like car parts and air conditioners produced by companies that ship jobs overseas.

“We’re either going to keep ’em here or we’re going to make a hell of a lot of money. It’s very simple,” he said. “And they’re going to regret that they ever moved.”

Trump made the case that, while his policies would most likely lead to price increases, more and higher-paying jobs would compensate.

“When you force workers in America to compete with workers earning $1 a day overseas, our whole standard of living goes down,” he said.

“We’re better off paying a little bit more and having jobs,” he added. “It’s a much better system. The way it used to be.”

But polling shows that the vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the USA.” A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that, when asked to choose between $50 pants made in another country or an $85 pair made in the United States, 67 percent of respondents chose the cheaper pair. Only 30 percent would pony up for the more expensive American-made goods.

Asked during the question-and-answer session whether he would push for a cultural change to that calculus, Trump embraced the idea.

“Our people should have more pride in buying made in the USA,” he said.

Democratic groups were quick to point out that Trump’s own clothing line, including shirts, ties and cologne, is manufactured in countries like Mexico, China, and Bangladesh. Trump has said in the past that current conditions make it “almost impossible for American companies to compete.”

Critics have taken issue with Trump’s portrayal of trade as the ultimate boogeyman. While it’s true that manufacturing is in rapid decline — with 4.5 million manufacturing jobs lost since NAFTA took effect in 1994 — it’s not easy to assign blame. In a report last year, the Congressional Research Service concluded that NAFTA’s effect on the nation’s economy “appears to have been relatively small.” Technology is likely the bigger culprit for job losses; robots and other machines make it possible to produce more with fewer workers.

Levying tariffs would probably require congressional approval and could set off a trade war.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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