Foreign Policy Magazine

Protect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Robots can actually create jobs—if countries get their trade policies right.

IN THE LONG RUN, automation might replace all humans in the manufacturing sector. But until then, there will be a fierce competition among countries for the manufacturing jobs that remain. And the first step to winning that battle is realizing the best strategy for doing so won’t be intuitive; it might not even be fair.

There are several reasons nations still compete so intensely to grab the biggest possible share of the global manufacturing sector. First, the markets for trucks, televisions, and airplanes are much larger than the purely local markets for domestic services, such as tourism and construction. Demand for a local day spa is inherently limited, whereas a car company has the potential to sell to millions of customers abroad.

Manufacturing also contributes disproportionately to research and development in science and technology; a country that loses its factories

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