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Uncle Sam back from the dead?

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By John Richardson on 10-Sep-2008

A very interesting report by McKinsey (you can sign up free for their online newsletter which only takes a minute) expands on the theme of reverse globalisation which I talked about last week.

The cost of shipping a standard 40-foot container has tripled since 2000 and labour cost increases have risen by average of 19% per year in China compared with just 3% in the US.

The consultancy makes the point that you have to do very thorough input-by-input calculations for each product and grade of product before making any decisions. And, of course, you need some reliable forecasts of where the economics of offshoring versus onshoring are heading – including predictions on crude-oil prices. Predicting crude, as I discussed earlier on today, is where I fall short.

You also need to take a view on the direction of environmental legislation – i.e. will there by carbon taxes and/or cap and trade systems introduced globally that penalise producers for extended global supply chains?

If history is anything to go by, McKinsey has worked out that manufacturing a “midrange” product in Asia will cost you an extra $16 today compared with the US when all landed costs are included. In 2003, Asia had a $46 advantage.

Add to this the likelihood that more petrochemical feedstock will become available in the US thanks to declining gasoline demand and perhaps, as again I talked about last week, the industry in the states might be set for a revival. It has been comparatively higher feedstock costs and the drift of downstrean customers overseas that has caused so much damage to the US industry.

For anyone who subscribes to ICIS news, you might find this artice of interest. Allen Kirkley of Shell discusses some of the new emerging feedstock options and converging economics between the West and the Middle East.