I recently wrote an article about why I believe larger footwear brands should start producing locally. Well, as I suspected, it seems the Obama Administration are avid readers of ConceptKicks (obvi). Not that the Trans-Pacific trade deal Obama is proposing will help large brands to start producing locally, what it’s trying to do is a step in the right direction…if it can actually be enforced.
The issue being, I don’t believe it can be, and there’s concern it may actually just be creating a loop-hole for companies to produce even more footwear in lower-wage countries in Asia, for even lower prices.
Essentially the Trans-Pacific trade deal would allow Asia specific countries, (most notably, Vietnam) that meet new, higher standards in both labor and environmental standards, zero tariff rates when selling their products to American companies. This means cheaper products for US brands, and higher manufacturing and environmental standards in the factories they’re produced in.
“We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy, and we should do it today while our economy is in the position of global strength,” Obama told the largely supportive crowd. “Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world, guess what: China will.”
Sounds great, right?
I’m no politician. In fact I’d pretty much rather rub salt into an open wound than discuss politics generally. But occasionally one has to delve into different arenas to fully appreciate the industry they’re in. I also have something these highly educated politicians don’t have when it comes to this particular area; actual field experience.
As brilliant as this sounds, I’d really love to see how they actually plan on enforcing the higher working and environmental standards in this trade deal. Any footwear developer can tell you that the shoe factory itself is just one short stop in a long line of vendors/suppliers, agents and goodness knows what else, that all have a part in the shoe making process. Of-course, different shoe factories have varied amounts of development they can actually handle themselves, but a good amount just stitch shit together mostly. How are you going to make sure the vendors supplying the goods to those factories are also at the same standard as the shoe factory you’re monitoring? And how about the vendors that are supplying those vendors?
It’s a tricky task. And honestly, I just don’t see it happening. This is the issue with outsourcing manufacturing, there are a lot of fingers in the pot. This is why I believe if the real concern actually is higher working and environmental conditions, the answer is local manufacturing, or at-least producing locally wherever possible. To my mind, it really is the only way we can even hope to be able to monitor the labor and environmental standards of all the parts involved in the shoe making process.
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