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Getting back to ‘Made in US’ is a group effort

The next time you’re shopping for clothing, take a look at the tags. You always check the price, of course. But what about the “made in” label?

You’ll see a lot of “Made in China.” Chances are there will be few, if any, “Made in the U.S.A.” tags in the store.

Why is that?

Virtually all of the clothing we Americans buy is made abroad, most of it in Asia. During a pre-Christmas visit to a women’s clothing store, I noticed many China tags along with others from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

How bad is it? During one recent year, the United States exported $5.8 billion worth of apparel — while importing clothes valued at $80 billion, according to the Department of Commerce.

You know why that’s so. Clothing made in those countries and other low-labor cost nations costs less, right?

Sometimes it does. But there are a variety of other factors, according to fashion industry officials. One is quality. Foreign-made clothing often is of higher quality than that made here.

The U.S. clothing industry sometimes doesn’t invest in the advanced machinery foreign makers use to produce apparel of higher quality and lower cost, some analysts say.

And — sit down for this one — finding skilled, dedicated labor can be a problem for some U.S. clothing manufacturers.

Finally, flexibility can be a concern. When a new style or fad hits, consumers want that clothing now. Wholesalers and retailers often can get new items faster from manufacturers abroad.

So it’s complicated. Price tags are a major factor, but not the only one.

On one stop in his “thank-you tour” before Christmas, President-elect Donald Trump talked about boosting American manufacturing. He took a straw poll among audience members. Did they prefer “Made in the U.S.A.” or “Made in America,” Trump asked. “Made in the U.S.A.” won by a big margin.

But how many of those audience members were wearing clothing made in this country?

Manufacturing used to be the foundation of this country’s economy. Getting that back would help us all, not just the millions of people who would get jobs making things.

Making that happen will require efforts by government and industry.

It also will mean we need to pay more attention to those “made in” tags.

By the way, the newspaper you’re reading was made, proudly, in the U.S.A.

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