Topic Category: U.S.

American exports have traditionally played a vital role in U.S. economic expansion. Now, they have become even more important since job growth is key to a sustained economic recovery. Local and state governments, as well as local trade organizations such as World Trade Centers and chambers of commerce, can play a more integral role in helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) increase exports.

Topic: U.S.
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In order to more quickly mitigate the effects of the current economic crisis, achieve favorable levels of growth and seize the benefits presented by global trade, it is imperative for companies to expand internationally. But to do so, it’s essential that elected officials do not craft protectionist policies, but instead pass trade liberalizing legislation that further opens foreign markets.

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America’s economy is in the vanguard of one of the most significant advances in the world’s economic history. Economic globalization is integrating national markets through international trade and investment.

We are witnessing unparalleled developments in microelectronics, computers, telecommunications, transportation logistics, and finance. Combined with new global realities, these developments are changing the way we live and work.

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America is undergoing one of the greatest periods of transformation in history. Not unlike the powerful changes caused by the industrial revolution that shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, today, globalization is shaping the 21st century and the United States is leading the way.

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Last year the United States attracted $180 billion in foreign direct investment. This is extremely important since inbound investment creates millions of high-wage, high-skilled American jobs that support our growing standard of living. But protectionist trends could disrupt this.

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Tainted Chinese imports have become a serious problem. The Chinese government realizes this and has taken swift action, including shutting down 180 food processing plants since December and executing the former director of the its drug and safety agency for corruption.

But due to economic realities beyond that government's grasp, Chinese imports likely will continue to be a problem in the short term. That's why American importers need to step up to the plate and assume greater responsibility.

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If a government policy creates many higher-paying jobs while putting fewer lower-paying ones at risk, would you favor it?

Virtually everyone would say yes. So why are free trade agreements — mechanisms that generate far greater benefits than disadvantages — perceived so negatively?

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Contrary to some claims, only a very small percentage of American jobs are ever put at risk from imports. And surprising to many, U.S. employment has been strong during periods of elevated imports.

According to the Progressive Policy Institute, A Washington, D.C.-based Democratic led think tank, research indicates that at most, imports account for approximately 5 percent of layoffs, and more likely between 2 percent and 3 percent.

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Despite more than five decades of evidence demonstrating the gains from liberalizing trade, the impact of international trade and open markets on the U.S. economy remains a hotly debated issue. In 2005, Congress considered renewing the President’s trade promotion authority, withdrawing from the World Trade Organization (WTO), and approving the Dominican Republic–Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR–CAFTA).

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The U.S. economy is undergoing one of the greatest periods of transformation in history. The convergence of powerful technological, political, economic and cultural forces is shaping the 21st century.

But as many U.S. industries seize global opportunities derived from today's economic realities, some are experiencing difficulty. This is causing fear and anxiety among workers similar to what was experienced during the industrial revolution. In turn, it is forcing a backlash against China—the latest scapegoat based mostly on misinformation.

For example, although the U.S. economy created 64 million net new jobs from 1970 through October 2005, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs fell from a high of 21 million in 1979 to 14.2 million in October 2005. Many blame this on imports, particularly from China. The real reason: new technologies and higher productivity have empowered fewer American workers to produce more goods in far less time.

We've seen these trends before. New technologies enabled U.S. agricultural output to skyrocket. The result: the number of farm workers fell from 9.5 million in 1940 to 2.2 million in 2004. Yet, the United States did not lose 7.3 million jobs; they shifted to emerging industries resulting in higher standards of living and a more prosperous American economy.

Imports from China only are responsible for a fraction of U.S. job losses. Importantly, they offer U.S. consumers greater choices and lower costs. In turn, this affords the American family more disposable income for education, health care and rent. In addition to keeping inflation down, inexpensive imported components help keep U.S. producers competitive.

China does, however, present new challenges. And it does not always play by the rules, especially with regard to intellectual property, production subsidies, distribution rights and transparency. But, should we isolate China as many suggest? To determine how well isolationist policies work, look no further than North Korea and Cuba: two countries where the United States has virtually no trade—and no influence.

Since its accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2001, China has significantly opened its market, cut import tariffs by nearly 40 percent, virtually eliminated import licenses and quotas, and relaxed ownership restrictions.

As a result, China and Hong Kong have become the United States' fourth largest export destination. And from 1999 through 2004, U.S. exports to China increased nearly 10 times faster than U.S. exports to the rest of the world. With a growing population of 1.3 billion people—and 200 to 300 million consumers with considerable purchasing power—China offers U.S. companies tremendous opportunities.

The demands for China to float its currency, the yuan, is another issue fraught with misinformation. During the devastating Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, China wasn't affected because the yuan was fixed to the U.S. dollar while U.S. policymakers praised China for its currency stability. Today, due to its fragile financial sector, China probably couldn't float the yuan if it wanted to. And even if the yuan's value were to rise, the impact on the U.S. trade deficit would be minimal, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan. Why? If the yuan's value were to rise, U.S. companies would continue to seek low cost imports from other developing countries.

President Bush's November visit to China is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship—a vital objective in today's complex world. Viewing China as a villain won't bring back U.S. manufacturing jobs. And when China doesn't implement reforms fast enough, understand its need to modernize at a pace that won't cause violent unrest among its unemployed.

Does this mean the U.S. should ignore unfair Chinese trade practices? No. But we should base our policy decisions on economic realities, not misinformation. Only through a mutually beneficial relationship will U.S.-Chinese business partners continue to create more globally attractive products—an effort that generates higher skilled, higher paid jobs in the United States.

This article was syndicated by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services and appeared in the Clarion-Ledger, Deluth News, Kansas City Star, Provo Daily Herald, Pueblo Chieftain, and Wisconsin State Journal in November and December 2005. This article also appeared in Impact Analysis, January-February 2006.
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