Everyone, it seems, has heard a horror story about theft of intellectual property or trade violations in China.
The Department of Commerce division focused on manufacturing knows all about the stories, but wants more information.
``[President Bush] understands your concern. The legislative branch understands it,'' said Don Wainwright, chairman of the Commerce Department's Manufacturing Council, during a town hall session March 8 at the National Association of Manufacturers' National Manufacturing Week in Chicago. ``We need to hear about it from you. We need some specifics so we can push it.''
Bush created the council in mid-2004 and appointed Al Frink to the new post of assistant secretary for manufacturing and services, to serve as point man for the administration.
One country dominates discussions in the unit, Frink said. Manufacturers are concerned about how they can protect the goods they make in the United States while also battling to expand trade opportunities in Asia.
``I don't know of anything that is getting more attention now from us than leveling the playing field with China,'' Frink said.
The United States can pressure China to force its manufacturers to follow the law, he said, but only when it has real data.
``Everybody's facing this, but we need to do a better job of taking it from a general complaint to a specific example,'' said NAM President John Engler. ``When there's evidence, let us know specifically what happened, who the offender is.''
Nearly two-thirds of NAM's members export American-made goods, Engler noted. That means trade policies will continue to make up a large portion of the Manufacturing Council's concerns. But other issues also are on the council's radar: job training, tort reform, health-insurance costs.
The council - which includes molders Fred Keller of Cascade Engineering Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Scott Thiss of S&W Plastics LLC in Eden Prairie, Minn. - has the responsibility of making sure those questions are addressed, Wainwright said.
``The burden that is on our back is not that there will no longer be any legislation [affecting manufacturing], but that it will be legislation we can live with,'' he said.