The U.S., the world’s largest economy, will slip to fifth place from third in manufacturing competitiveness in the next five years as India and Brazil race ahead, according to a report.
China will remain in the top spot while India rises to second from fourth and Brazil jumps from eighth to third, according to the 2013 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index compiled by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness. The index, which was first introduced in 2010, reflects perceptions of more than 550 senior corporate leaders surveyed about how 38 countries rank currently and will fare in five years.
Executives said access to talented workers is the top indicator of competitiveness, followed by a country’s trade, financial and tax policies, according to the report, which was to be published today.
“From a U.S. perspective we didn’t change that much, but it’s just that others are moving rapidly,” Samuel Allen, chairman and chief executive officer of Deere & Co. and chairman of the council, said in a telephone interview. “We can’t tread water whether it be in education, tax reform or continued investment in infrastructure.”
The current and future rankings reinforce the perception that the U.S. is “living off of investments we made a long time ago,” Allen said. He said he worries about factors such as deteriorating U.S. infrastructure that may increase costs to move goods, and energy policies that could boost fuel prices.
The looming so-called fiscal cliff of U.S. automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin in 2013 is also a concern, Allen said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance” with Tom Keene.
“We are delaying some investments until after the first of the year just to know for sure: Are we going to walk over the cliff or are we going to move forward?” Allen said.
While Deere, the world’s largest maker of farm equipment, has factories around the world, it still has invested about 57 percent of its capital in the U.S. in the last five years, Allen said. The Moline, Illinois-based manufacturer generated 61 percent of its revenue in the U.S. and Canada last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The U.S. still can improve its competitiveness by reforming its tax structure and controlling its debt, Allen said.
According to the report, Germany will move from second to fourth in the competitiveness ranking, South Korea will fall from fifth to sixth, Taiwan will go from sixth to seventh, Canada will drop from seventh to eighth, and Japan falls out of the top 10 list altogether, tumbling from 10th to 12th. Vietnam, meanwhile, will jump from 18th to 10th and Singapore will maintain its No. 9 ranking.
Another “sobering” finding in the report is that in five years Germany will be the only European country in the top 15 spots for manufacturing competitiveness, as the U.K. and Poland slide, Allen said.
The world is seeing a “power shift” of competitiveness toward developing countries, particularly those in Asia, said Deborah L. Wince-Smith, CEO of the Washington-based council that includes business, academic and labor leaders.
China and other emerging countries are increasingly manufacturing advanced goods, said Craig Giffi, the U.S. consumer and industrial products industry leader at Deloitte who co-authored the report.
While emerging manufacturing powers still face challenges in improving their infrastructure, supplier networks and legal systems, the countries are investing to drive growth and jobs, according to the report.
“We are at an inflection point,” Giffi said. “For developed nations, it’s going to get harder.”
Aside from the responses of top executives, the study was based on interviews with “key manufacturing players” and contributors from Deloitte, the council, the Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow, and Clemson University in South Carolina, according to the report.