Still beating this drum

I’m not hearing nearly enough about it in the general news, and maybe it’s because the contamination control industry reaches into so many industries that the pattern seems so clear to me. But I can’t believe how quietly and without protest the Western world is allowing its entire industrial base to be given away and rebuilt elsewhere–primarily in China. It seems to me it should be the number one topic of every industry trade publication. It certainly should be the number one concern of their readers, as long as they’re employed, anyway.

Recently in this column, I talked about the U.S. government’s efforts to increase FDA’s funding so that it can execute its plan of moving inspection offices to Asia, to follow the movement of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. That process, by the way, is coming along nicely. Having received the nod from Congress, I see that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has now amended its budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2009 to include an additional $275 million for FDA. Says HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, “Combined with crucial legislative proposals, this increase will allow FDA to continue to transform its regulatory strategies to meet the challenges of the evolving global marketplace.” Let’s all give a cheer for the evolving global marketplace! Oh, wait a minute, when he says marketplace, he really means “manufacturing base,” doesn’t he, and that doesn’t include the West anymore, does it?

Oh well, we’re really only shipping out the low-tech stuff. I mean, we’re keeping our intellectual property, advanced technologies, and manufacturing processes close to home. Right? Apparently, not so much. It seems the Europeans are not to be outdone in the race toward total domestic industrial suicide. For example, “Geneva-based” STMicroelectronics is most generously now offering Chinese universities access to its most advanced CMOS processes for “academic and research” purposes. According to the company, “this access will boost the design and engineering capabilities in China–a key market worldwide for semiconductors and increasingly a focal point for R&D, in addition to the availability of a rich pool of talent for advanced IC design.” Who knew that a nuclear-capable totalitarian dictatorship with the largest army in the world and the goal of one day occupying its democratic island neighbor would turn out to be such a great business partner? You really do have to love this evolving global marketplace.

Still, not to worry: There’s always the new emerging industries to take the place of the ones we don’t want anymore. I mean, take solar energy and photovoltaics, for example. Just about every Western government is planning to spend millions of taxpayer dollars, euros, and pounds to support the development of these industries. DuPont says it expects growth in the photovoltaic market to exceed 30 percent in each of the next several years. That’s good news and DuPont says it will soon begin construction on a research center in Hong Kong and a manufacturing facility in Shenzhen to support the rapidly growing industry. Oh, sorry. Forget I mentioned it.

So, you tell me: How can this possibly end well for Western economies, Western employment levels, and the quality of all of our lives? And don’t tell me this is all the natural movement of a free-market system. There is nothing at all free-market about the heavily subsidized, regulation-free, incentive-laden locations that our corporations are exploiting. And, with all the legislative and tax barriers imposed by Western governments, there certainly isn’t much free-market dynamic in play at home, either. Whatever the solution, this tide of desertion needs to be stemmed now.

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John Haystead,
Publisher & Editor


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