Protectionism ''Not a Cure'' for Trade Concerns, Say Experts
CSIS panel urges education, training, benefits for US workers displaced by outsourcing
WASHINGTON, DC - 03/12/04 - US job security is better served by expanding domestic training and education opportunities than by employing protectionist measures to prevent companies from transferring work to lower-wage markets, according to a panel of experts.
"Isolating America from the world is not the answer," Assistant US Trade Representative Chris Padilla said during a March 10 conference on job outsourcing hosted in Washington, DC by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
A far better approach, he said, is the Bush Administration's policy of promoting job growth by negotiating freer markets for US goods and services, enforcing existing trade agreements, and increasing trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for displaced US workers.
President Bush addressed the issue of outsourcing in a speech in Ohio the same day, describing isolationism as a "recipe for economic disaster." The US "has moved beyond that tired, defeatist mind-set, and we're not going back," he said.
Panelists at the CSIS conference - including Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and a number of representatives from business and academia - generally agreed that protectionism is the least advisable path to securing US job growth.
But they also agreed that US workers are increasingly worried about their jobs and increasingly inclined to blame trade agreements for job losses, actual and potential, as public opinion polls show falling US support for trade pacts.
The issue of job "outsourcing" to countries such as India and China was a recurring theme among Democrats competing for their party's nomination to oppose President Bush in the November election.
In March, the Senate passed a measure that would restrict outsourcing to foreign workers many jobs paid for by the federal government, and some US states have moved to prohibit the outsourcing of state government work to India and other countries.
"There is intense anxiety about jobs, and the anxiety is real," said Lael Brainard, a former Clinton Administration official now with the Brookings Institution. The feeling among US workers, she said, is that "nobody is safe in the international economy."
Brainard said US policy makers face the daunting task of building support for freer trade while also addressing public anxieties and finding ways to provide health benefits, re-training options and insurance for displaced workers.
Unlike the more generous government-mandated welfare systems in much of Western Europe, she said, "our system just doesn't have a very good way to deal with [displaced workers]."
She also said that surprisingly little is known about the exact number and types of US jobs that have been lost to outsourcing. She predicted, however, that outsourcing is likely to increase as overseas labor markets become more competitive.
"We need to accept that we won't maintain an advantage in every single industry," she said.
Smith said that much of the current outcry on outsourcing is based on "anecdotal" evidence and that the General Accounting Office (GAO) of Congress is in the process of compiling more reliable data.
While he said he disagreed with the "protectionist talk" that emerged during the Democratic presidential primaries, Smith also took issue with what he called the Bush administration's "relaxed" approach to labor problems.
"People in this country are legitimately struggling" and should have access to the training and education they need to better compete with overseas workers, he said. Smith said he supports a substantial increase in trade adjustment assistance for US workers.
Smith also called on the Administration to crack down on countries that fail to live up to their commitments to open their markets. He cited India and China as examples of countries that are reaping the benefits of global trade but have not reciprocated by opening their own markets.
"We need to use trade rules to our advantage," Smith said.
On March 9, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick testified before the Senate Finance Committee and sounded a similar note on the importance of enforcement.
Recalling a recent meeting with Indian officials, the USTR said he had acknowledged that outsourcing is a "complicated" issue but also that India must accept its responsibilities under global trade rules.
"The Indians have absolutely no right to complain, because they don't belong to the government procurement code in the WTO [World Trade Organization]," which sets obligations for transparency in procurement deals, Zoellick said.
"If countries around the world that are emerging economic powers want to get the benefits of the system, they're going to have to contribute to the system," he concluded.
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
Korea, US Free Trade Pact ''Possible'' by Early 2007
WASHINGTON, DC – 10/25/06 – A free trade pact between the US and South Korea could become a reality by early 2007, says chief US negotiator Wendy Cutler at the opening of this week’s fourth round of talks between the two countries; since the two sides launched FTA negotiations in February they have reported little progress even though they postponed consideration of the most politically sensitive issues, such as US access to the Korean rice market.
California Leads US, World in Biotech
LA JOLLA – 10/19/06 – California’s biomedical sector is the most active in the entire US with the industry now positioned as the second largest driver of the state’s economy surpassing the entertainment, aerospace, telecommunications, and computer industries in employment, according to the latest 2006 California Biomedical Industry Survey; the survey was conducted by the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and found that California-based biomed companies generated $62 billion in revenue in 2005 accounting for a full two-thirds of the market value of all NASDAQ- listed life sciences companies.
Comprehensive Port Security Bill Signed Into Law
WASHINGTON, DC – 10/14/06 – The Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 – or SAFE Act – has been signed into law by President George Bush; the new legislation calls for the gradual implementation of a laundry list of security measures at US container ports including background checks and credentials for port and dock workers and contingency plans for the resumption of trade in the event of a terrorist attack on the country’s ports or waterways.