The U.S. trails Japan and Europe in producing the advanced technology increasingly needed by manufacturers around the world, according to a new report.
The Wall Street Journal cited numbers from the Commerce Department indicating a trade deficit of more than $4 billion between the advanced factory equipment industry in the U.S. and those of the global market leaders — Japan, the European Union and Switzerland — in 2016.
That deficit is roughly double the level from 2003, but remains below the $7 billion deficit of 2001. The reduction in that trade gap, however, largely resulted from foreign companies that expanded their U.S. operations, the Journal noted.
Growing U.S. equipment makers, meanwhile, are often snapped up by larger foreign rivals.
As a result, U.S. companies accounted for 63 percent of domestic demand for factory equipment in 2015 — an 18 percentage point decrease from 1995 levels.
And anecdotally, those factors mean that ambitious manufacturers such as auto component maker Vickers Engineering need to look outside the U.S. for advanced equipment — even though they would likely prefer to do business domestically.
Vickers CEO Matt Tyler told the Journal that his company bought industrial robots from Japan and that, at the time, "We were not aware of any American-made option."