Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy | My Paper Hub
The "Travels of a T-Shirt in the
The "Travels of a T-Shirt in the
Global Economy:" by Pietra Rivoli 2nd Ed
It is often a challenge to quickly
discuss international trade because of its abstract nature. However, when the
focus is based on a single product, then the concept of globalization becomes
very clear and useful to learners and readers. The book by Pietra Rivoli looks
at the politics, markets, and power of trade globally through the eyes of an
economist. There is a high probability that a shirt an individual wear was
either made in the United States or China. Most production of cotton is widely
done in these two countries. Pietra takes a close look at how world trade takes
place and looks at an example of a T-shirt. The book is non-fiction and traces
the path of an old t-shirt across the globe. The author is a well-known a
reputable in the field of International business and Finance at George
Washington University. She has vast knowledge and makes her qualified to take
us through the journey of explaining the politics and economics of the T-shirt.
The cycle entails production of cotton
at Texas and then proceeding to the China market for sale and later on gets
back into the US where it gets now gets into the African market through
donation. Pietra decides to take a journey of a T-shirt, and this is highly
demanding for her as it takes a period of five years to follow this one t-shirt
across several markets. The process entails obtaining the first-hand
experience, and that is why she moves with the t-shirt and have a feel of
globalization. The $6 T-shirt life story is aimed towards exploring the human
elements and politics surrounding globalization.
The objective of the book by Pietra is
to highlight different parts around global trade and this include politics,
business, economics, and people. In her book and travel experience across the
world, she mentions of the influence on the environment as a result of trade
and industrialization (Muhammad, McPhail, and Kiawu). Her focus on the single
product is a life experience to explore global aspects of the business. The
book provides a thesis which explains to the reader about the relationship
between international trade and a simple T-shirt. She proceeds to provide
arguments supporting global trade and also those against it based on the
In the first section of Rivoli's book,
she talks about the journey of the T-shirt beginning at a cotton industry. The
cotton fields are in West Texas, and she states that the undisputed leader of
global cotton production is the United States for over 200 years (5). The
evidence of this leadership is seen in the advanced cotton production
techniques found in the United States. The Eli Whitney's cotton gin is one of
the advanced techniques used in the United States (15). The role played by the
United States government is critical to becoming a global leader in the cotton
industry as it provides subsidies to farmers. The grants help in cutting down
on the cost of production hence avoid farmers in the United States from hiring
cheap labor sharecroppers (20). In return, the farmers easily get to prevent or
suppress any competition (Muhammad, McPhail, and Kiawu). Some people argue that
the impact of eliminating competition increases the gap between the poor and
the rich (14). Several other factors can be attributed to the cotton production
success in America such as education, climate control, capitalism and
scientific advancements (25). The result includes price control of cotton by
the United States globally and cutting subsidies would increase the market
price substantially (63).
As the book progresses, the second part
now focuses on cotton's journey from American fields to China. The cotton is
transported through ships and trains after it is picked by machines and deseeded
in the United States. Upon getting to China, machines are now not involved in
the spinning, cutting, knitting and stitching but humans (78). People are
engaged in the hard work to make the T-shirt. China has control over the
apparel and the global textile industry just like the United States in the
cotton industry (87). However, the leader of exports in clothing is Hong Kong
along the mid-1970. China dominates the textile sector due to the availability
of sweatshops. Some of the sweatshops are illegal and workers there are exposed
to low wages and poor conditions to produce affordable shirts. In the process,
the environment ends up suffering since it is expensive to acquire clean
manufacturing techniques in the industry (89).
Some American citizens have for a long
time aired their views on what is happening in the textile and apparel
companies in the country, concerning the adverse effects of cheap labor and
clothing that came from China. Similar sentiments expressed by American
corporations were also raised by British manufacturers concerning cheap cotton
that was coming from India and the United States during the earlier centuries.
The political aspect of the global trade in clothing has enabled nations such
as America that buy from China to demand better working conditions for workers
in their factories.
In part three of the book, the focus
shifts to global trade and globalization. The author follows the journey of the
T-shirt from the Chinese industry to the American market. Policies such as
quotas that have been imposed on imports from China by the American government
are aimed at increasing jobs in American manufacturing firms (146). Americans
become more nervous as the number of imports increases into the American market
(157). In this section, Pietra provides two different arguments about free
trade. The first argument by Auggie Tantillo claims that America has to reduce
its dependency on imports if it wants to be successful. His basis of the
argument is that when America maintains its manufacturing jobs, then their
reliance on China would reduce (189). The second argument is by Julia Hughes
who profoundly believes in free trade. Her point of reasoning is about helping
poorer nations such as African countries to engage in global commerce. Also,
Hughes believes that Americans will benefit from cheaper imports on T-shirts
from countries all over the world (151). The two, Julia and Auggie have two
entirely separate economic perspectives concerning international trade. In 2005
when quotas were lifted, exports from China rose by more than 800 percent
(196). However, four years down the line, the quotas were reapplied by
President Bush, and this describes the debate over uncertainties on what is
politically and economically best for America (D. Churchwell).
The book looks at the journey
surrounding used T-shirts after Americans donate them. Rivoli states that
between the years 1995 and 2007, America exported close to nine billion pounds
used clothes and other textile product to other parts of the world (216). The
clothes get usually shipped to clothing industries like Salvation Army, where
they become categorized by type and color. These type of businesses by used
clothes at 5 to 7 cents per pound (219). When the clothes are fully organized,
they are sold and shipped to other countries around the world. Some of the
clothes such as Nikes, and Levis, Disney apparel are sent to Japan (221). Other
countries that use used clothes include Guatemala, Philippines, Chile, and
countries in Africa. The distribution of used clothes is big business since
different countries order specific clothing (226). Looking at the journey that
used T-shirts play in the economy and the global market, it is right to say
that, this kind of business is one to reckon with in the world stage.
This book offers a great insight into
the processes that take place when a product is produced to when it reaches
consumers. Also, the author highlights the competition that products face not
only in one country but all over the world. I found it interesting learn the
journey of outputs from their state of manufacture to when it gets sold. I knew
that the United States gets products from China, but the fact that the author
hinted on the politics that faces this type of market, I knew this was new
information that many people don't know. The book is helpful and informative
but, I would have liked if the author, would have given more opinions
concerning globalization and how it affect the distribution of products.
I did not have information regarding
cotton production, but after reading the book, I realized that cotton farmers
are serious about their niche and how the country impacts on the cotton
industry. The main issue that caught my attention from the book is the fact
that the American government offers subsidies to the state's farmers and if
this move is unfair to farmers from other countries who cannot produce cotton
successfully and efficiently as American farmers do. The production of cotton
is not even all over the world, but I strongly feel that American cotton
farmers need to be given subsidies to support their work. The weather and
environmental factors fluctuate now and then; this means that farming is not
predictable. Thus it is paramount that the government to offer assistance to
farmers. Like working people in the US, cotton farmers don't have a guarantee
of an annual salary. Thus the government subsidies are high to ensure the
cotton industry thrives. Grants provide that cotton farmers stay employed, and
the subsidies that the government offers ensure that the country remains as the
leader in cotton production. Sometimes t is right to consider America before
thinking of other nations. It is true that the subsidies the government offers
drives up the market price of cotton worldwide; thus, affecting developing
countries negatively. However, American farmers are not supposed to suffer
because the government of other emerging nations is not able to offer subsidies
to their farmer.
In the beginning part of the journey,
the primary business was that of the cotton industry. As stated by the author,
"A label saying Made in China will be tacked on the collar. However, when
Texas cotton gets transformed it eventually gets back to the United States
(77)." I was surprised by this statement as I had less information of
America supplying cotton to China. All the cotton used in China comes from
America. Therefore, the textile industry in China highly depends on and can
easily be dictated by the American cotton industry. I tend to believe that the
label should be changed and no longer say China Made as all the cotton come
from America. America relies on China, and at the same time, China also depends
on America. It is a mutual relationship, and the perception of imposing quotas
since China is exporting their clothes to America is debatable (D. Churchwell).
In the book, she also talks about
challenges faced by the environment as a result of T-shirt production and
cotton. A good example is the cotton farmer mention in the book, Nelson
Reinsch, who applies chemicals to freeze his crops. However, he does this
whenever he feels like which is a threat to the environment (39). The chemicals
used by farmers of cotton are highly toxic and dangerous to groundwater and
humans. Such compounds are used to improve on cotton quality and yield.
However, excessive utilization and misapplication would create the need for the
EPA to step in and regulate. The next aspect of the environmental impact is air
pollution in China as it affects major cities. The designs also are made out of
a chemical substance named Phthalates that causes deformities in a baby when
the mother gets exposed to it during pregnancy (132).
International trade is a way of
connection with several nations, and the book clearly depicts how they rely on
each other. It is also evident that without cotton from America, China would
not be able to produce clothing. However, without the cheap labor available in
China then, the United States would not have cheap goods. Politics and
economics have a significant role in the journey of the T-shirt from cotton
production to the process of manufacturing, movement of the T-shirt to America,
and finally donation to the Salvation Army. Despite the economic policies on
free trade by the American government where politics come into play, they are
just part of the measures to protect the economic interests of the American
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