While imports devastate other domestic industries, most notably the automobile and computer sectors, United States manufacturers of laboratory instruments posted a $2.3 billion trade surplus in 1991, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures. Though foreign companies are making progress in the industry, the nation's equipment manufacturers can be assured that "made in the U.S.A." will remain a common label in labs throughout the scientific world.

U.S. instrument makers have continued to refine tools such as the spectrophotometer and the high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC). These innovations, driven in part by basic research advances made by U.S. scientists, have kept U.S.-based manufacturers at the cutting edge of instrumentation, say observers of the scientific equipment market. This has enabled producers to protect their share of the domestic market--the world's largest--and made their instruments competitive abroad. In recent years, however, instrument makers in Japan and Europe have begun to contest the pre-eminent position...

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