Sneakers show limits of trade policy in reviving jobs for Trump

American companies from appliance makers to auto parts suppliers have lined up to offer a quiet caution to President-elect Donald Trump as he considers pulling the United States from trade deals: most lost manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, but higher costs for consumers could. Companies like Nike have invested too much in those lower-wage economies to consider moving factories, even if tariffs rise and push up costs for American consumers, analysts say. Any new hiring in the United States will be years down the road and depend on refining production technologies like 3-D printing that could make it profitable to hire relatively small numbers of American production staff. The same dynamic applies to other industries, like auto parts, which have moved production to Mexico over the past two decades, executives say. The U.S. imports about 98 percent of its footwear — 2.5 billion pairs last year, or nearly eight pair for every man, woman and child. Shoemaking went offshore decades ago, mainly to China, because the process is so labor intensive. Making a single pair of running shoes can require up to 80 production steps. The average shoe worker in Vietnam earns about $245 a month, while shoe tariffs can range from zero up to 48 percent, according the U.S. International Trade Commission. The average is just over 13 percent. The same dynamic is seen in other industries. Ford Motor Co (F.N) CEO Mark Fields said last week that big tariffs on cars and trucks imported from Mexico would hurt the auto industry and the U.S. economy. But he remained committed to making small cars in Mexico because the profits on making those cars in the U.S. are so low.