Ohio’s Globalized Economy Belies Its America First Politics


In the race to succeed retiring Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman, you hear a lot of China bashing and the scourge of globalization in this prototypical Midwestern state. What you don’t hear in this persistently xenophobic but critical race for a seat in the U.S. Senate is just how much Ohio has benefited from globalization.

The seventh-largest state’s $736 billion gross domestic product owes more to its prosperity and growing interdependence in the world economy than any other after California, Texas and Florida. That’s based on 771 active foreign factories located in Ohio, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among the top 10 US states, Ohio has the most foreign-owned factories per thousand square miles.

None of these inconvenient truths about the two men competing to succeed Portman, who as President George W. Bush’s US Trade Representative negotiated and signed deals with China and Mexico among some 30 countries. They also never mentioned that the business they denounce with China and Mexico is embraced by almost every Ohio company from the personal care manufacturer based in Cincinnati Procter & Gamble Co. of the Panacea Products Corp. family in Columbus.

Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman since 2003, reminded voters that “one of the first bills I had was to penalize China for currency manipulation. I’m working to get China’s steel tariffs to come,” he said during a debate. October with JD Vance, the Republican venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy” endorsed by Donald Trump. “Why has China taken so many of America’s jobs?” Vance asked. “One of the reasons is because energy is too expensive. You can’t do modern industrial manufacturing without high quality energy.”

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But where would Ohio’s economy be without China, its important trading partner, and other foreign demand for its goods? Ohio imported $10.2 billion in goods from China in 2020, the largest supplier after Canada, and exported $3.6 billion to China, its third largest customer after Canada and Mexico. China happens to be a major supplier to Walmart Inc., Ohio’s No. 1 employer with more than 55,000 associates who earn an average hourly wage of $17.39. This chart on Ohio’s international trade comes from the globalEDGE site created by Michigan State University:

No. 1 company Proctor & Gamble, Ohio with a market value of $320 billion, has increased overseas sales by 12% in the last three years to 54.5% of total revenue. Over the past decade, Greater China contributed between 8% and 10% of global sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sherwin-Williams Co., Cleveland-based paint manufacturer and Ohio’s third largest company, sells $4.2 billion of products overseas annually, a 5% increase from three years ago, and exports 20% of total sales. Even with 80% of its sales in the US, Sherwin-Williams counts 41% of its suppliers among companies overseas. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. based in Akron sold almost 50% of its products overseas during the past 10 years. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., the New Albany-based apparel retailer, reported that 60% of its new store openings are outside the U.S., up from 41% three years ago, according to Bloomberg data.

Ryan, Vance and their respective political parties are similarly silent on the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs created statewide by Honda Motor Co. Japan, Siemens AG Germany, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Belgium, Air Liquide SA France and Tata Steel Ltd. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace convened a task force of senior policymakers from both Democratic and Republican administrations that concluded in a 2018 study, “Is US Foreign Policy Working for Ohio’s Middle Class?”, political antagonism toward global trade will . continues among many Ohioans who remain “concerned that unstable trade policies would undermine Ohio’s efforts to attract foreign investment and [they] made it clear that they welcome investment from China.

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What Ohioans say and do when it comes to globalization is contradictory “based on studies that my colleagues and I have done,” said Bill Shkurti, who retired in 2010 as Ohio State University’s vice president for business and finance and it is the former. director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. “If Honda wasn’t there, we would be missing 15,000 auto jobs,” he said in a Zoom interview last month. “Ohio has lost about half of its manufacturing jobs since they peaked in the early 60s. Singles biggest culprit is automation. We now have half the people in manufacturing that we did 50 years ago. But the value they are producing is twice as much as it was 50 years ago. If Ohio hadn’t automated and remained competitive, we probably would have lost even more jobs.”

“There is certainly xenophobia among Ohioans” that “belies the reality” that “most Ohioans would be surprised to hear how globalized we are,” said Paul Beck, professor emeritus at Ohio State, where he is Distinguished Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and there. former chair of its political science department. “Procter & Gamble probably has the highest percentage of sons and daughters of its employees who speak a foreign language. But I haven’t heard Procter & Gamble say that much.”

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Ryan, who “comes from the Rust Belt and who during his career denounced the loss of jobs to Canada, Mexico and China,” does not recognize “the reality of the globalization of Ohio jobs” and profits, Beck said. a Zoom interview. “I grew up in a small town in Indiana and my mother was the daughter of someone who ran a hardware store there,” he said. “And when Walmart came into town, it destroyed the market for hardware stores,” Beck said. “He would never walk into a Walmart.” But when he needed something and “Walmart was the only place to get it, he would say ‘I’ll go up to the store with you but I won’t go inside because Walmart is the enemy.’ So I went inside. I had no problem.”

Neither did Portman, the congressman, trade representative and senator of the past 30 years. Automation may have displaced the traditional factory worker, but globalization has kept Ohio working. More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Republicans have no plan to fix the economy: Allison Schrager

• What happened to the Republican political agenda?: Jonathan Bernstein

• Abortion may not be a problem for Democrats: Ramesh Ponnuru

–With assistance from Shin Pei.

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Matthew A. Winkler, editor-in-chief emeritus of Bloomberg News, writes about the markets.

More stories like this one are available at bloomberg.com/opinion


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