In President-elect Trump’s interview with the NY Times yesterday, when discussing jobs, closed factories and factories that may leave the country, he was asked: “Are you worried that those companies will keep their factories here, but the jobs will be replaced by robots?
Trump responded as follows: (transcript from NY Times)
“They will, and we’ll make the robots too. It’s a big thing, we’ll make the robots too. Right now we don’t make the robots. We don’t make anything. But we’re going to, I mean, look, robotics is becoming very big and we’re going to do that. We’re going to have more factories. We can’t lose 70,000 factories. Just can’t do it. We’re going to start making things.
“I was honored yesterday, I got a call from Bill Gates, great call, we had a great conversation, I got a call from Tim Cook at Apple, and I said, ‘Tim, you know one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that you go to, you’re making your product right here.’ He said, ‘I understand that.’ I said: ‘I think we’ll create the incentives for you, and I think you’re going to do it. We’re going for a very large tax cut for corporations, which you’ll be happy about.’ But we’re going for big tax cuts, we have to get rid of regulations, regulations are making it impossible. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, I mean I could sit down and show you regulations that anybody would agree are ridiculous. It’s gotten to be a free-for-all. And companies can’t, they can’t even start up, they can’t expand, they’re choking.”
“I tell you, one thing I would say, so, I’m giving a big tax cut and I’m giving big regulation cuts, and I’ve seen all of the small business owners over the United States, and all of the big business owners, I’ve met so many people. They are more excited about the regulation cut than about the tax cut. And I would’ve never said that’s possible, because the tax cut’s going to be substantial. You know we have companies leaving our country because the taxes are too high. But they’re leaving also because of the regulations. And I would say, of the two, and I would not have thought this, regulation cuts, substantial regulation cuts, are more important than, and more enthusiastically supported, than even the big tax cuts.”
It’s true that 2/3 of the robotics industry and 100% of industrial robots are manufactured outside of the U.S. by non-U.S. companies. The industrial robot industry was started in America but the companies making those original robots were sold and moved off shore, never to return except in the form of sales and service offices and research and support centers. [Adept Technologies, the last American industrial robot manufacturer, was sold last year to Japanese industrial components and robot manufacturer OMRON.]
In China, Japan, Korea and throughout the EU, governments are providing significant credits and incentives to make (or in the EU and Japan, to keep) robot-making in-country. These are strategic investments of billions and billions of dollars. It’s having a good effect worldwide. For example, China’s in-country robot production rate is growing exponentially. Yet thus far in America, through the American Manufacturing Initiative and other measures, less than $100 million has been earmarked for robotics and less than $50 million towards manufacturing them in the U.S.
Let’s hope that Trump does what he says he’s going to do regarding robots and robotics in America.