Walmart aims to knock down barriers for American manufacturers
Walmart officials called it a “road map to renew U.S. manufacturing.”
A critic of the U.S.-based international retail giant, however, called it "a pathetic publicity stunt."
Walmart, which employs some 2.3 million worldwide and also is Pennsylvania’s largest employer, last week organized a meeting in Washington D.C. of government, business and other leaders to address the challenges, but also opportunities, facing the American manufacturing sector.
Its officials want to remove policy barriers to U.S. domestic manufacturing that, if knocked down, could recapture some $300 billion in consumer goods that are currently imported - including furniture, cookware and sporting goods – according to an analysis cited by organizers of Walmart's July 26 meeting.
That could potentially result in creating some 1.5 million American jobs, said the study by the Boston Consulting Group.
Said a union official and frequent Walmart critic, however, "Walmart doesn't care about creating supplier manufacturing jobs in America; it cares about getting the cheapest product made, regardless of the cost."
Randy Parraz, director of the advocacy group Making Change At Walmart, issued a statement following the meeting claiming that "Walmart pretends to propose more U.S. manufacturing jobs at a time when its pressure is destroying them ... and also at a time when it is recruiting more overseas vendors in China and other countries."
Walmart officials have always denied such charges, and said it wants to advance American manufacturing at a time when the sector is on the upswing.
The U.S. manufacturing index for June rose to its highest level (57.8 percent) since August 2014, and production, employment and new orders all showed solid gains, according to press reports.
Experts said a weakening dollar, rising global growth and a strong U.S. economy fueled the positive news.
Walmart’s road map suggests policy actions to address the manufacturing barriers and suggests the actions "to affect meaningful change that will unlock greater growth and job creation in domestic manufacturing of consumer goods."
It cites a lack of qualified workers and too much government regulation as top obstacles.
Some two-thirds of Walmart's merchandise spending is for items that are made, assembled, sourced or grown in the U.S., the company said. Four years ago it committed to sourcing an additional $250 billion over 10 years on products that support American jobs, the retailer said.