The topline number for the United States isn't bad: we rank 4th on the list behind Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand. However, a closer look at the US rankings reveals some serious concerns:
The United States also ranks poorly in other key economic areas, such as starting a business (13th) and trading across borders (20th) - both vitally important for business formation and global competition. Contrary to what you might expect, the trade category doesn't analyze protectionist tariffs but instead measures the "time and cost (excluding tariffs) associated with exporting and importing a standardized cargo of goods by ocean transport." As I've frequently discussed here, such "trade facilitation" (e.g., customs rules, export controls, etc.) issues might be boring, but they're just as important as tariffs (and sometimes even moreso).
Finally, it's important to note where some of the big developing countries rank on this list. Brazil ranks 126th overall; India ranks a frightening 132nd; and the global powerhouse China ranks only 91st. In short, it's far easier to do business in the United States than it is in China, and this massive divide in the costs of doing business helps explain why global companies don't all instantly move to the countries with the cheapest labor supplies (and why a lot of them are coming back to the United States after dabbling abroad). Keep that in mind the next time you hear someone ignorantly rambling about the "race to the bottom" or some politician peddling protectionism as solution to the "inevitable decline" of America's global competitiveness. In fact, there are a lot of obvious ways that the government could create a better business environment for American companies, and decline is anything but inevitable.