Tag Archives: North American procurement

World Trade and Procurement in the Trump Era

Trump’s trade  policies will greatly affect our global supply chains. How will increased protectionism and bilateral deals impact the procurement function?

Frantically attempting to understand the new modern world, commentators and experts are struggling to digest the political earthquakes of 2016. It remains wholly unclear what binds together the widespread nationalism, populism and division in countries around the world.

The threat to global supply chains

Trump has a clear dislike of international trade, preferring to shield the USA’s economy from competition. He has a disdain for businesses moving operations to other countries.

Whether or not organisations source much directly from non-domestic sources, they are dependent on global supply chains and networks. These networks are responsible for sourcing the goods and services to meet the needs of stakeholders. Threats to free trade pose challenges to procurement professionals and their ability to source goods and services efficiently and cost-effectively.

For many years, there has been a trend for opening up procurement markets. This trend has entailed removing tariffs on imports, opening up non-discriminatory bidding on public contracts to non-domestic businesses and harmonising regulatory regimes to make cross-border trade less bureaucratic and more efficient. This has allowed procurement teams to drive down costs and increase competition and product choice.

Trump’s abolition of free trade agreements

Since inauguration, Trump has honoured his commitments to abolish pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with the European Union and eleven Pacific Rim countries. Both contained provisions which would have opened up the procurement markets to non-discriminatory bidding for businesses across participating countries. This eases importing processes.

Trump also vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, which has been critical in creating and sustaining supply chains in North America.

With this move away from free trade, what are the prospects for continued integration of procurement markets in the Trump era? There are two points to cover – new bilateral FTAs including the USA and the movement towards free trade driven by powers beyond the USA.

The prospect of new bilateral deals

Firstly, whilst Trump has expressed a strong distaste for multilateral FTAs such as TTIP, TPP and NAFTA, he has sung the praises of bilateral deals. This has been strongly signalled with the UK in particular.  Trump has made some ambitious comments that there is a  deal ready to sign once the UK departs the EU.

If this were to happen, tariffs and perhaps other barriers would be removed, with the intention of easing cross-border trade.

The prospects for this are not great, however. With Trump’s “America first” agenda, it is not clear how easily any deals could come to fruition. FTAs are based on compromise, whereby countries grant reciprocal access to each others’ economies. For American companies to gain the ability to win public contracts as part of a deal with another country, access to American government contracts would need to be provided to businesses from the other country.

It is far from clear whether the new administration would accept the American government awarding contracts to more foreign companies, effectively moving the jobs associated with that contract to other countries.

China could be the driving force behind liberalising trade

The second topic is perhaps more pertinent then; this is the possibility that other countries or systems will emerge as the force behind liberalising procurement markets to replace a more protectionist and isolationist USA.

China’s global economic influence is steadily increasing. The TPP’s death presents China with the opportunity to be the leader in free trade. It is the lead behind the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Pact (RCEP), which includes sixteen countries, such as Australia, Japan, India and South Korea. In total, RCEP covers 30 per cent of global GDP and around half of the global population.

The agreement focuses on tariff removal, with some harmonisation of standards and intellectual property rights. RCEP is not equivalent to TPP in integrating procurement markets in different countries, however. Whilst procurement teams would benefit greatly from cheaper imports from elimination of tariffs, RCEP does not include detailed provisions of government procurement – non-discrimination does not look likely to be included. The eventual, and lofty, ambition of RCEP is to create a free trade area across the Asia Pacific.

Driving integration in procurement markets

Aside from China, multilateral institutions are perhaps the most likely to drive integration and liberalisation of procurement markets over the coming years. The European Union has long been a driver of liberalisation of procurement markets.

In 2016, the EU signed a detailed FTA with Canada,   including detailed provision for procurement.  It has pending agreements with countries such as Singapore and Vietnam and is in long-term discussions with an array of countries and trading blocs.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO), Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), consisting of 47 members (including the EU28), reciprocally opens procurement markets. It is looking likely that Australia will accede to the GPA in 2017 and discussions of China becoming a full member, further opening up procurement markets.

Also within the WTO, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a proposed agreement to ease trade in services. This would include 50 countries, including the EU countries and the USA. With this, trade in services between the countries would become  frictionless and there would be elimination of preference for domestic suppliers, which might apply without a minimum value threshold for all government agencies.

Access to global markets is core for procurement

Globalisation continues to be much maligned by electorates and the media. But for procurement teams who rely on sourcing goods and services from around the world, either directly or indirectly, access to global markets is core to maximising value for money and ensuring public services are as effective and cost-efficient as possible. Without engaging in the broader political debates, it is clear that one industry needs access to suppliers of goods and services, without unnecessary barriers – the procurement industry.

The Flaw At The Heart Of Trump’s America First policy

5.6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs didn’t move to China and Mexico – they simply disappeared with the march of technology. And that’s the flaw in America First! 

Trump’s stunning election win has been linked to his successful portrayal as both a friend of Corporate America and a champion of the working class. His business-friendly policies include large-scale deregulation, slashing tax rates and a huge infrastructure spend, which (in theory) are designed to boost jobs through trickle-down economics.

But the support of Corporate America isn’t enough to remain in power. In order to retain the presidency for another four years after the 2020 election, Trump will have to deliver on the key promise that won the support of the disillusioned working class – bringing industry home and reviving jobs in America’s once-thriving industrial rust belt.

However, there’s a miscalculation at the heart of the rhetoric around bringing jobs back from overseas factories.

Robots, not overseas workers, have taken 85% of manufacturing jobs

A recent study from the Centre for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University found that:

  • Employment in the manufacturing sector fell by 5.6 million between 2000 and 2010.
  • Productivity growth (automation) accounted for more than 85% of jobs lost in manufacturing in this period.
  • Only 13% of the overall job loss resulted from trade (including Chinese imports).
  • Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing output has risen steadily, growing 17.6% between 2006 and 2013.

Simply put, American factories – and factories worldwide – are producing more goods with fewer people. Automation is rendering millions of low-skilled jobs redundant, yet Trump’s key policy aim to “bring back jobs” seems to be mistakenly focused on increasing trade protectionism.

Protectionism could backfire by further accelerating automation

ABC’s business editor Ian Verrender writes that even if Trump “slaps massive import duties on Chinese goods and forces his country to start producing everything at home via the magic of ‘America First’”, it risks leading to a domino effect where business will be forced to find efficiencies in order to survive.

  1. The loss of access to low-cost labour would drive up the cost of consumer goods, meaning Americans would find themselves unable to afford the goods to which they’ve become accustomed.
  2. This lack of affordability would spark demands for wage rises.
  3. Firms would respond by pushing even further into automation, using robotics and AI to cut costs.

Verrender comments: “Where once corporations scoured the globe for low-cost labour, and duly shifted their operations, they [would] now seek ways to eliminate labour altogether, particularly in manufacturing.”

Accelerating automation is inevitable

The loss of jobs to robots is only expected to broaden and accelerate. A report from two Oxford researchers found that an incredible 45% of U.S. jobs, across all sectors and professionals, are vulnerable to being automated within the next 20 years.

For example, self-driving technology alone could lead to the unemployment of 1,000,000 truck drivers in the U.S., along with approximately 160,000 Uber drivers, 230,000 taxi drivers and over 600,000 bus drivers.

Some of the big names to comment on the coming social disruption include Stephen Hawking, who wrote last year: “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

In February, Elon Musk asked the audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai: “What to do about mass unemployment? This is going to be a massive social challenge. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better [than a human]. These are not things that I wish will happen. These are simply things that I think probably will happen.”

Bill Gates commented: “You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all at once. Warehouse work, driving, room clean-up – there’s quite a few things that are meaningful job categories that, certainly in the next 20 years, [will go away].”

What’s the answer?

Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, warned the World Economic Forum in Davos of the “digital refugees” that would be created by AI. “This is the moment … when we have the highest level of anxiety because we can see advances in AI that are beyond what we had expected,” he said. “It’s happening at a rate and a capability that we are worrying about how it will impact the everyman, the broad range of workers around the world . . . There is no clear path forward”.

One hopeful sign is that a public discourse on the disruptive effects of automation has begun. Thought-leaders have already put forward some solutions, although they may seem politically unpalatable at present. Elon Musk recommends that the U.S. adopts a universal basic income (such as that being trialled in Finland) to keep the economy going and guarantee a standard of living for the millions of workers expected to be displaced by automation. Bill Gates has suggested taxing robotic workers to recapture some of the money displaced workers would have paid as income tax. Education, too, will need to transform to equip future generations with the skills needed to find work in a highly-automated future.

Although Trump appears to be currently focused on the wrong job-stealing “villain” (China), there is hope that leaders will listen to the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk and start planning ahead for the social upheaval of what has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution.

In other news this week:

France passes “duty of vigilance” supply chain law

  • Last week, France passed a law that pushes for accountability for multinational companies sourcing from global supply chains.
  • The “duty of vigilance” law requires companies to establish safeguards designed to ensure that labour rights and other human rights are respected in the production sites they source from.
  • The law requires large companies based in France to create a document that sets out their procedures for evaluating suppliers and mitigate human rights abuses. Violating the “duty of vigilance” law can lead to a penalty of up to €10 million.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive

Trump seeks historic increase in military spending

  • President Trump’s first budget seeks to boost military spending by $US54 billion. The US currently spends about $US584 billion annually on defence.
  • If passed by Congress, the 9% increase will be funded by cuts to non-defence spending, including environmental programs, diplomacy and foreign aid.
  • Last year, the rest of the world combined spent a total of $US317 billion on defence. The highest-spending countries under the US were China ($US146 billion), Saudi Arabia ($US82 billion), Russia ($US66 billion) and the UK ($US56 billion).

Read more at ABC News

Big Ideas in Procurement in North America

The procurement profession in North America is thriving. But what are the Big Ideas coming from one of the profession’s biggest regions?

Cliff Palace North America

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on April 21st, we are taking a look at the key issues facing procurement in the coming years. We have asked experts and influencers in our community to share their Big Ideas on the themes we will be discussing on the day.

Here, our experts and influencers share their thoughts on the Big Ideas impacting organisations and industries on the other side of the Atlantic, in North America.

Justin Plokhooy, Director – Supply Chain Management, USAA

Power Profiles 1 - Justin PlokhooyTalent Management – It is clear, and has been for a couple of years, that supply is outstripping demand when it comes to the Procurement job market.  In 2016, firms will be challenged to do a better job in working with their current employees to better develop career plans (up to and including a path to the C-suite), and find challenging work to keep them from looking elsewhere. 

A work environment that has the right pay and benefits is always important, but even more important is the opportunity to have a more flexible work arrangement. Millennials have hung like a Sword of Damocles over the entire job market, and with that generation entering the workforce, firms must offer more mobility tools in how they execute work.

Procurement as a Service – Procurement organisations are struggling to get the right to execute on the work they have. The use of outsourcing and ProS has exploded over recent years and will continue to grow in 2016. 

Procurement organisations will continue to ask their employees to conduct more value added work and as a result the administrative functions will need a place to live. Moving those to a service provider will become a growing trend. This will also allow firms to become much more scalable and flexible in response to changing market conditions, quickly finding skills that may have taken much longer through a permanent hire. 

Driving out labor costs should not be the deciding reason to move to a ProS model, but that may end of being a benefit as well.  The “as-a-service” economy is here to stay and Procurement leaders should embrace the possibilities.  

Anna Spady, Marketing Manager, RFP365

Power Profiles 1 - Anna SpadyMore millennials = more mobile – Now that Millennials have outranked Boomers as the dominant workforce, we believe there are big waves in store for procurement.

We’re convinced this next generation of CPOs will demand mobile and agile everything, and simply won’t be content with the clunky processes we’ve had to use to compare, select, and communicate with our suppliers.

Even our clients in the most traditional of industries (government, healthcare, finance) are feeling this necessity. They’re creating iPhone apps to administer benefits packages, and using Twitter as a consulting platform. Similarly, Procurement will also be forced to pivot, because ultimately more millennials means a need to be more mobile.

Innovative evaluation – One big trend we anticipate in North America is a more innovative way to evaluate procurement technology. 

As a Marketer, I know that paid analysts and reviews are simply not as trusted as organic reviews from real customers. So it was interesting to read this Procurious discussion on the pros & cons of using review sources like Gartner. 

We’re convinced technology assessment methods like the Magic Quadrant will become increasingly obsolete. Because there are two big problems with these pay-to-play systems. 

First, they’re too niche, and the evaluations are exclusive to platforms that cover every area of procurement, excluding platforms who specialise in part of the procurement process. Their outdated criteria also makes makes outdated technology look like winners, and the factors aren’t up-to-date with what is actually on the market.

The second problem is their hefty price tag, which often excludes valuable options like newer, smaller companies, who might actually offer the best functionality. We believe the future holds more relevant and dynamic ways to find e-procurement solutions. 

Leveraging Technology for Vendor Selection – We’ve noticed nearly all the technology and tools on the Procurement market today focus on vendor maintenance (invoicing, contract management), while neglecting the critical process of selecting those vendors. 

Why have parts of the procurement process evolved (paper catalogs streamlined to the web, entire supply chains being monitored from a single console, etc), yet the actual selection and comparison process remains in something akin to the technology dark ages?

Our big idea is to see the rest of procurement catch up. To see the age of IOT and data applied to each part of the procurement process, starting with more sophisticated  vendor selection methods.

Do you work in North America? What’s your Big Idea for the future of procurement? Let us know and we could be discussing them on April 21st.

Want to know more about Big Ideas 2016? Then visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.