Wal-Mart CEO Defends Imports

Rogers, Ark., Lee Scott on Thursday defended Wal-Mart Stores’ reliance on low-cost imports against what he called “emerging economic nationalism,” the Associated Press reported.

The company’s chief executive told a retailing conference he would like to stock more American-made goods but that Wal-Mart's business model is based on offering the lowest price for consumers who cannot afford to spend more.

“Lest anybody forget, 20% of Wal-Mart's customers don't have a checking account and they do not have the economic luxury of making a broader social statement," Scott told a conference of the Center for Retailing Excellence, part of the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton Business College.

Wal-Mart has been a lightning rod for critics who say overseas buying by retailers has cost U.S. manufacturing jobs. Wal-Mart has said it finds the lowest prices for its customers and creates jobs at its stores.

Scott said he expects "economic nationalism" to remain a hot-button issue in U.S. politics because of presidential and congressional elections next year.