Writings and observations

The meaning of foreign

tanker

Boeing tanker/Boeing

The stunning announcement of the mega-award – a mere $35 billion for now, but maybe $100 billion or more eventually – not going to Boeing has left a lot of people in the Puget Sound wondering what’s next. That could be slow growth in the airline industry in the region, or less than that.

The decision may or may not stand, of course. Congress is likely to get involved in this one (and, really, shouldn’t it be when we’re talking about such huge sums of money?). But one of the issues raised in all this, which seems such an initially simple talking point, winds up pretty complex.

Assembly of the big planes, by the winning Northrup Grummon-Airbus team, would be done mostly in Alabama (which isn’t at present ready to handle the work load). But construction would be done mostly in Europe – another major manufacturing job, this one important to national defense, shipped overseas. Which understandably has by itself caused a row.

If that sounds black and white, consider this from the Big blog in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Globalized trade has long been part of the American economic landscape. Many media outlets already are pointing out that China is Boeing’s largest foreign parts supplier. And while the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the parent of Airbus, is based in France, it’s been supplying NATO – our allies – for years. The other half of that team, Northrup Grumman Corp., is based in Los Angeles. As for where the Northrop-EADS tanker will be assembled, it’ll be on this side of the pond, in Mobile, Ala. The terms “foreign” and “domestic” couldn’t be more blurred. So the question is this: Is it helpful or productive in such a border-less world to view trade contracts through such a stark dichotomy?”

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