Presumably, you're talking about "design for manufacturability" and "systems engineering," which requires a broader knowledge base, and which N.A., currently, doesn't do very well anyway. Japan has mastered this, and is using it in its auto manufacturing in the U.S. and throughout the world, and exporting it to China faster than you can imagine. It's only a matter of time before China's/India's design capabilities catch up with its manufacturing capabilities. (Think about it: their children go to school earlier and longer, and they study harder). At that point there will only be two ways in which N.A. can differentiate itself: mass customization and speed of product introduction. If the majority of the cosumers are still in N.A., N.A. companies CAN compete, but only by increasing the speed of introduction of new products so rapidly that lead times and shipping costs become the deciding factors. Can you imagine a product lifecycle so rapid that by the time comparable product arrives on the docks, it will already be obsolete? Th only way you can accomplish this is by using local manufacturing, for short runs of customized parts. Mass manufacturing cannot compete with this. Yes, I agree we need more knowlege of manufacturing techniques, but that's not enough. Gone are the days when you could invent one product and ride it into the sunset. N.A. needs ingenuity and creativity and inventiveness to regain competitiveness.
Here's the hope of "free trade": At some point, wages in the world will equallize and the world will be THE marketplace. My problem with this is that nobody really knows how long this will take. Just a hunch: it won't happen in my lifetime.