It’s too bad Twitter wasn’t around in 1972, when President Richard Nixon made his famous trip to China which opened up diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries.
“Trickydick: Chairman Mao still thinks communism is a better economic system than capitalism #nixongoestochina.”
Luckily, Gov. Rick Snyder used Twitter to keep us updated as he traveled about Europe for a trade mission last week. The Twitter account, @onetoughnerd, is probably managed by an office staffer.
But, just like when teenage girls tweet at Justin Beiber, in the hopes it is the Beibs who tweets back, I hope it’s actually the Gov.
Snyder visited both Italy and Germany. The trip marked his second trade mission; his first was to China, Japan and South Korea. China is Michigan’s third-biggest trade partner after Canada and Mexico. Sales to China in 2010 totaled $2.2 billion. Snyder also signed an agreement with South Korean officials to better cooperation, which has apparently reaped results.
“Onetoughnerd: Great news – Tejin Advanced Composites, which I met with during the Asia trade mission, is investing in MI #Reinvent.”
“About 80,000 Michiganians are employed by German and Italian-owned companies that operate in the state, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” reported The Detroit News, which covered the trips. “The companies are heavily concentrated in advanced automotive manufacturing and research and development.”
The report also commented on the expenses for the trip: “It is being paid for through contributions to the Michigan Economic Development Foundation, a nonprofit 501©3 organization.”
“Onetoughnerd: the trip is privately funded; taxpayers aren’t paying for it. The goal is to increase MI’s exports and attract new investment.”
And the governor’s decision to do multiple trade missions isn’t frivolous, as the Brookings Institute reports in a study of the state’s recovery:
“Exports have moved the US economy forward, as our manufactured goods have met ready markets abroad. Michigan’s metropolitan areas are also exceptional at producing goods and providing services that are in demand abroad. Of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Detroit is 12th in terms of export intensity (the share of its output that is exported), and Grand Rapids ranks eighth.”
“onetoughnerd: 30 percent of #Michigan exports to Europe in 2011 were to Germany. I am working to strengthen this important trade relationship #Reinvent.”
Snyder tweeted on March 21, about his tour through an apprenticeship center in Wurzburg, Germany. All this month I’ve talked about Germany: its manufacturing sector, trade surplus and highly unionized workforce. Thankfully, the governor was able to see it for himself.
The reason it is so important Snyder was able to be awed, as I am, at Germany’s success is it will hopefully inform his policies for the rest of his tenure.
First, Germany hasn’t had to resort to third-world wages in order to sell products all over the world and is only second to China in exports. Per capita income in China is $5,184, compared to Germany’s per capita income of $44,555.
Second, Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund, a trade union in Germany, represents 25 percent of the country’s workforce. Michigan, which is more unionized than most states, has a workforce where 17.5 percent of the workers are union members. The lesson is, unions don’t have to be crushed and right-to-work laws are bad policy.
In fact, in Germany, the compositions of company supervisory boards must include an equal number of management and employee representatives.
Third, Germany focuses a lot on vocational and technical education, which leaves its citizens who aren’t destined for universities with trade skills and apprenticeships. It eliminates helplessness from the equation. That is an aspect that should interest the governor, who cut unemployment benefits in his first year.
The lessons we hope Snyder learned are not from Italy and its spendthrift ways, or the austerity it has used to answer its debt crisis, but those from Germany.