The west has not given up on manufacturing and can still be competitive in many industries. In fact I thought that I had read somewhere not too long ago that Germany has a positive balance of trade with China?
A hundred years ago many of the headlines coming out of China / Foxconn and the like would have been coming out of the United States. Someday in the not too distant future such headlines will be coming out of some other part of the world.
We may not like what all of this economic evolution is doing. It's pretty nasty for a lot of the people involved, but like it or not, we really don't have much choice. We either find a way to adapt or we watch the world move on from the sidelines.
It seems like the smarter we get, the more we talk about issues and the less we do about them. Manufacturing will not bring back the number of good-paying jobs that we used to enjoy. In order to compete in this country the total cost will need to be less, which means more automation and a few good-paying jobs. Besides, where will the manufacturing expertise come from? Academia, business, maybe we will send our best people to China to be trained. This unemployment and economic malaise is not just a normal business cycle. Unemployment will continue because we are able to produce more than we need with fewer people. Besides, manufacturing would seem to be a controllable part of the business enterprise, but there are so many ways for things to go wrong. In Toyota's case, how hard is it to design an accelerator? My point is, companies don't like things that they don't understand and are suprised by.
I don't think there's any such thing as "completely cornered the manufacturing economy," as if this were a static, one-time event. I think we're dealing with a dynamic mechanism, very simply fueled in the west by the need to minimize production costs.
Companies do not deal with macroeconomics -- governments do. Companies deal in microeconomics only. If company A can make that wigit for less than company B, by offshoring, then it will do so. And that will force company B to do likewise.
The fact that in the macro sense, these two companies are going to reduce demand for their products, by helping to create job loss among their customers, never even figures in their thinking. It can't, really, if they want to stay in business until next month.
What do these conferences even accomplish? Nice words about manufacturing at home won't change the way the CEOs balance their books.
Would be nice to focus these conferences on real things. Such as, can manufacturing automation better be employed to compete against offshore labor? How, or to what extent? Also, what are wages and the standard of living doing in the Asian manufacturing countries? When is the flow of manufacturing to Asia likely to slow down?