Globalization, transnational companies, global sourcing and outsourcing, free trade, do any of these terms sound familiar?
Obtaining products and raw materials for the lowest price possible is a fundamental concept in business. Today organizations are looking for manufacturers and locations worldwide where they can find lower costs of production in order to remain competitive.
Combine the factors of: quality control, low cost production, logistics costs, and the time involved to get the product to market from the factory, and you understand the challenge of doing business and sourcing products in today’s global economy.
To truly determine the final cost of the product, all these factors must be calculated. This will determine which country offers the best competitive advantage. Make sure you are analyzing any existing free trade agreements when you are seeking suppliers globally.
Free trade treaties between countries have a significant impact upon the final cost of goods. These free trade agreements eliminate the tariffs and taxes on imported and exported goods between the countries involved, depending upon their concentration or percentage of “local” or national raw materials (including labor), as specified in the free trade agreement.
Free trade agreements between countries are of great importance and value only if are exclusive and not accepted by all trading countries. The more free trade is embraced by the international community (through treaties or elimination of import and export tariffs) the less impact the current free trade agreements have in determining competitive advantages for a single country.
Here is a simple example of how the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) free trade treaty between Mexico and the USA, would favor the US supplier over a Chinese supplier.
Example of free trade agreeement competitive advantage:
US supplier to Mexico. If I want to purchase paint made by a US paint manufacturer and have it shipped to my warehouse in Mexico, my total cost to bring the goods to my warehouse in Mexico would be the cost of the paint, plus freight and customs clearing costs. There is no import tariff on this product due to the NAFTA free trade treaty. It would take 4 – 6 days to arrive in my warehouse in Mexico once the product has been shipped from the USA.
US paint $ 20.00 + Freight $ 4.00 + Customs $ 1.00 = $ 25.00 total cost of the US product in my warehouse in Mexico
Chinese supplier to Mexico. If I purchase the same product, from the same transnational company, but it is manufactured in China. Transportation time is 40 days from date product is shipped from China.
Chinese paint $14.00 + Freight $ 8.00 + Customs $ 1.00 + Import tariff (13% of CIF value) $ 2.86 = USD $ 25.86, total cost of the Chinese product in my warehouse in Mexico.
In this example the final cost of the product is $ .86 lower from the US supplier as compared to the Chinese supplier, despite a lower initial product cost. Factor in the financial cost and time required to move the product from the factory to my warehouse, and the lowest final cost in this case would clearly come from purchasing product from the US supplier.
Mexico’s aggressive free trade strategy
Since the 1990’s Mexico has bet heavily on international free trade agreements as a method to improve their competitive advantage and increase their manufacturing base and attract foreign investment.
Mexico has signed 11 existing free trade treaties and 2 complementary economic agreements with 42 countries. It is the only country in the world to have standing free trade agreements with North American and the European community.
The free trade agreements have greatly increased international competition (imports) in Mexico (good for the consumer).
Free trade agreements have allowed Mexican exports to increase and reach destinations and markets that were closed before due to tariffs and costs. There has been increased foreign investment from countries that desired to use Mexico’s free trade competitive advantage for international manufacturing and export projects.
The Mexican manufacturers and suppliers of the national Mexican market were given a “sink or swim” option. Virtually overnight (many of the treaties were phased in over a period of 3 – 10 years), their previous protected market was filled with imported goods (more competition, lower cost, higher quality).
Those that have survived the “invasion”, have had to improve their efficiency, quality and costs. Making them much more competitive in todays global economy.
Britannica’s Definition of free trade:
“Policy in which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports. A free-trade policy does not necessarily imply that the government abandons all control and taxation of imports and exports, but rather that it refrains from actions specifically designed to hinder international trade, such as tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and import quotas. The theoretical case for free trade is based on Adam Smith’s argument that the division of labour among countries leads to specialization, greater efficiency, and higher aggregate production. The way to foster such a division of labour, Smith believed, is to allow nations to make and sell whatever products can compete successfully in an international market.”