President Donald Trump's trade war was supposed to encourage American manufacturers to pack up their Chinese and other international operations and move them to the U.S.

The same is true of COVID-19, which disrupted just-in-time deliveries by shutting down factories around the world.

Instead, the uncertainty caused by Trump's trade war and COVID-19 supply chain disruptions paralyzed corporate decisionmakers, and though more than 600 U.S. manufacturers opted to return to the United States this year,  the number is down by one-third compared with 2018.

"A lot of companies are like frozen deer in the headlights," said Jim Tomkins, chairman of Tomkins International, a North Carolina consulting firm that helps manufacturers decide whether to bring their operations back to the U.S.

"They don't like having to depend on China. They would maybe like to bring back manufacturing to Mexico or the U.S. But because of the uncertainty, they can't tell me their requirements. They don't know how much they're going to sell. And given how much they don't know, this probably isn't the best time to make any major capital investments."

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Tompkins International Staff
Tompkins International Staff