By 2015, China’s overall cost advantage will shrivel to 7 percent, BCG forecasts. As important, it says, the United States will maintain significant cost advantages over other developed-country manufacturers: 15 percent over France and Germany; 21 percent over Japan; and 8 percent over Great Britain. The United States will be a more attractive production platform. Imports will weaken; exports will strengthen. BCG predicts between 2.5 million and 5 million new factory jobs by 2020. (For perspective: 5.7 million manufacturing jobs disappeared from 2000 to 2010.)
Because the United States is the world’s largest importer, this shift would dampen trade. Similarly, cross-border money flows (“capital flows”) have abated. Banks, especially in Europe, have reduced foreign loans to “deleverage” and strengthen their balance sheets. From 2011 to 2012, bank loans to 30 “emerging market” countries fell by one-third, says the Institute of International Finance (IIF), an industry group. “It’s the most decisive case of ‘home bias’ [in lending] being re-established,” says economist Philip Suttle of the IIF. Government regulators encourage the shift, he says, suggesting that “if you’re going to cut lending, cut there and not here.”
Of course, globalization won’t vanish. It’s too big and too entwined with national economies. In 2011, total world exports amounted to nearly $18 trillion. The same is true of capital flows. Despite banks’ pullbacks, those same 30 emerging-market countries in 2012 received an estimated $1 trillion worth of investment from multinational companies, private investors, pensions, insurance companies and other lenders — a still-huge total, though down from its peak. But globalization’s character may change.