Don’t hamper this trend

Perhaps the most important report on the U.S. economy in years was released recently by a private consulting company. It indicates American manufacturers are growing more competitive in comparison to overseas industries.

Manufacturing in China cost 14 percent less than in the U.S. in 2004, according to the report by the Boston Consulting Group. By this year the gap had narrowed to just 5 percent.

By 2018 it will be cheaper to manufacture goods here than in China, the consultant concluded – but only if current trends continue. That is an enormous “if.”

Manufacturing cost gaps between the U.S. and many other countries also have narrowed, according to the report. In some cases, the U.S. has regained the edge it once enjoyed. Brazilian industries, once able to produce at lower cost than American counterparts, now are 23 percent more expensive.

Back to that “if,” however.

Whether the U.S. can continue to improve depends on a variety of factors, including access to reasonably priced energy. It will be up to U.S. policymakers to avoid reversing the progress.