Thursday, July 05, 2007

International trade in "Old Glory" - wrong end of the stick?

To mark the 4th of July when the US finally gained independence from the motherland this post concerns the curious action of Minnesota that has banned the flying of any American flag that was not made in the USA.

The penalty - £1,000 or 90 days in jail.

Of course, on this "globalisation" website we are interested in all acts of protectionism and this appears to be the thin end of the new "protectionist" wedge that is sweeping America (if wedges can sweep).

As a sucker for statistics here are some beauties:

In 2000 America imported $748,000 of US flag, mostly from Taiwan.
In 2001 America improted $51.7 MILLION of US flags, motly from China.

In a regression you would need a serious 9/11 dummy thrown in there. The speed with which China reacted to market demand is a great example of why globalisation works.

If the ban on imported flags had been in place in 2001 there would have a large number of upset patriots who would either have had to pay through the nose for their old glory or been flagless.

The other interesting statistic from today's Times is that 45% of all Americans fly their flag daily.

In the UK I would suspect the figure would be less than 1% at best rising dramatically just before England get knocked out of the latest football competiton after which it falls back to less than 1% within a day or two.

Americans fly the flag for July 4, as long as it’s not made in China
As if raising and waving millions of Stars and Stripes was not patriotic enough at Independence Day celebrations yesterday, the flags now have to be made in the US.

The state of Minnesota has taken the most draconian action, requiring all US flags sold in the state to be of American manufacture. Violations of the law, which comes into force at the end of the year, will be punished by a $1,000 (£495) fine or 90 days in jail.

From this month, schools and colleges in Arizona are being forced to equip every classroom with a US-made Stars and Stripes – sometimes known as “Old Glory”.

Tennessee state law already stipulates that any US flag bought with public money cannot be imported from another country, while similar Bills are being considered by legislators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Such measures chime with the protectionist mood sweeping America. The Democrats, in particular, have become increasingly concerned about preserving manufacturing jobs that they believe are being destroyed by free trade and cheap foreign imports.

In this cause Old Glory has, as ever, emerged as a potent symbol. Last year Republicans failed by a single vote to get the two-thirds majority they needed in the US Senate for a constitutional amendment banning the burning of the flag.

No comments: