[OPE-L:3454] Re: valuation of imports

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 17:43:41 EDT

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In [OPE-L:3443], Paul C wrote:

> Foreign labour does not count towards the production of US value.

To begin with, foreign labour is an ambiguous term in the context
of advanced capitalist economies where there are undocumented and
"guest" workers. However, I understand by the above that you mean
labour performed within the borders of a country (in this case,
the US).

The problem, though, is that in the context of trans-national
corporate production, the labour performed in other countries
*does* count towards what is SNLT. And, of course, the
corporations themselves know well that labour performed in
other countries counts towards the value of the commodities
"produced" in the US. Thus in auto manufacturing (a more
precise term would be auto *assembly*) in the US a majority
of the parts are produced abroad. [Unlike most countries,
there is no auto (labor) "content" regulation in the US. The
UAW fought unsucessfully for such legislation in the late
1970's and 80's].

It seems to me that in thinking of the *geography of value
production* we have to think of two "maps". In the first
"map" of the world, the world is divided into distinct
nation-states with borders and sovereignty. This is the
traditional "map" in economics and the one I take it you
are referring to (indeed, it is hard to imagine i/o tables
not being developed on this basis). In the second "map"
(which, in reality, is super-imposed on the 1st map, i.e.
in reality both maps exist), the world is divided among
distinct capitalist corporations. It is still commonplace
to refer to large corporations as "US corporations" or
"Japanese corporations" or "British [sic] corporations",
yet it is frequently not accurate to pigeon-hole
corporations on the basis of the country where they are
incorporated or where they have their corporate
headquarters. These corporations often produce and sell
commodities (often the same commodities) in dozens of
countries. Moreover, in a world where there is a
growing role for *regional trade associations* (such as
the Common Market and NAFTA), one might claim that
instead of referring to value production in the US or
the UK one needs to refer to value production within a
customs union.

In principle, it might be possible to sort all of this
out in terms of empirical measurement, but it would be
a difficult task and canby no means be accurately
measured with a simple valuation of imports. Indeed,
the very meaning of the term "import" changes
fundamentally once there is a RTA. Can we, for example,
now talk about commodities being produced in Canada
and "imported" into the US? Note, btw, that many of
those commodities produced in Canada are produced by
labor employed by "US" corporations.

In solidarity, Jerry

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