After doing some Christmas and Hanukkah ("holiday" for some sensitive people) shopping, I started reviewing the gifts I bought for family and friends.
Of seven items, one was made in Bangladesh, another in Vietnam and five, the most expensive ones, in China.
Chinese-made items used to be considered to be at the bottom of the list in quality and likability. The most expensive and exclusive designer clothes used to be from Western Europe, fine footwear from Italy, Spain or Brazil, electronics from Japan, and
appliances, high-tech goods, and food from North America.
I went hunting for made-in-North America items, and after a non-scientific survey, I found out that more than 70 per cent of items are from China. The other 28 per cent are primarily from countries with low labour costs such as Pakistan, Cambodia or Thailand.
We used to be really proud of our Canadian-made oak furniture; however, I couldn't find one table or chair made in Canada.
Food is mostly still from North America, but Latin America is gaining ground.
In 1992, Mexico, the United States and Canada signed the North America Free Trade Agreement. At the time, NAFTA was the largest free-trade agreement in the world.
The vision was that Mexico, with cheaper labour costs, would become the China of the Americas. That would have shared some of the prosperity and wealth of North Americans with Mexico. However, this never happened, mostly because Mexican authorities and companies didn't take advantage of the opportunities of NAFTA. They were ill prepared technologically, culturally and productively.
The Chinese, in contrast, hold the North American market, the biggest in the world. They actively fostered their industrial capacity by acquiring the newest machinery, investing in technology and offering efficient service and products at great prices. It is ridiculous that it takes longer, is riskier and costs twice as much to ship from Mexico than from China.
Chinese success in the manufacturing sector did not happen by accident. Their economy is expected to grow by 8.4 per cent this year.
How did they manage to keep it up during a year of recession in most of the world? China has been manipulating its currency for years. This allows Chinese producers to offer prices that are far cheaper than those that a free,
supply-and-demand market would permit.
Also, they do not respect companies' intellectual rights. The Chinese have spied on and stolen technology from our companies for years. Corruption within the Chinese government has led to tainted baby-food products, brakes that fail and lead paint in toys.
But our biggest problem is that we are creating a generation whose only work experience is behind a computer, a counter or a wheel. We are losing our manufacturing know-how. Our car industry is dying. Plants are closing, and no government intervention can help it.
We have lost creativity and productivity. We have become a society that, other than its natural resources, creates no tangible wealth.
When we buy any item made, assembled and packaged in China, which has no added value in Canada, wealth is created in and for China, not Canada.
When one-quarter of our workforce depends on government jobs and the rest works in the service industry, you know something is wrong.
Our purchases support some of our local and national businesses, and it is often during this season that businesses make their profits.
However, we need to consider where the products we buy are coming from. Should we be concerned that our money is largely not supporting Canada's, but rather, China's growth? Next time you see a "Made in Canada" product, get it; do not let it go. It is a rare commodity.
Salomon Rayek is a Kelowna resident
and former executive editor of the Jewish Tribune. Email: