“Imports provide American families with products they need at prices they can afford, and also create jobs that keep those families prosperous,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers sell millions of imported items while U.S. manufacturers rely heavily on imported parts and raw materials to create the exports they ship around the world. Imports are a win for every segment of our nation’s economy, from the factory floor to the checkout line.”
The “Imports Work for America” study found that imports improve American families’ standard of living by ensuring a wide selection of budget-friendly goods from clothing and footwear to consumer electronics. Imports reduced prices of a wide range of consumer products in the past decade – television sets by 87 percent, computers 75 percent, toys 43 percent, and dishes and flatware 33 percent. Among other key findings:
- Imports could lower prices for consumers even more if not for protectionist U.S. tariffs. Shoes, for example, carry tariffs as high as 48 percent, apparel 32 percent, drinking glasses 29 percent, porcelain or China dinnerware sets 26 percent, and bed linens 21 percent.
- At $138.7 billion annually, home furnishings are the second-largest category of imported consumer goods after automobiles, followed by apparel at $99.8 billion. Computers, consumer electronics, toys and footwear are all in the top 10.
- Imports support more than 16 million American jobs, or 9 percent of U.S. employment. A large number of these import-related jobs are union jobs, and many are held by minorities and women. Included are 1.8 million retail jobs, or 10 percent of direct retail employment.
- More than half the firms that import directly are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 workers.
-American manufacturers rely on imports of raw materials and intermediate goods to lower their production costs and stay competitive in domestic and international markets. Factories and farms purchase more than 60 percent of U.S. imports.
- Imports generate exports. The United States is integrated into international supply chains so that even U.S. imports contain U.S. exports, particularly those generated in high-skilled and capital-intensive stages of production such as R&D and design.
The study was prepared by economists Laura M. Baughman and Joseph F. Francois of the Trade Partnership Worldwide for NRF, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the American Apparel and Footwear Association. It was released as dozens of companies and business associations mark “Imports Work Week” May 6-10 to draw attention to the role imports play in the U.S. and global economy as part of “World Trade Month.”
As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.
National Retail Federation