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Tone Deaf on Job Creation, Business and Free Trade

By Neal Asbury
Friday, 25 Feb 2011 12:22 PM Current | Bio | Archive

I was very pleased that President Barack Obama recently addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization with which he has had a contentious relationship.

The chamber is a very short distance across Lafayette Square from the White House, so it is mind-boggling it took this long for the president to reach out to a group that advocates on behalf of U.S. business.

I knew there would be some disagreements, especially concerning remarks by Obama that suggested even if a business doesn’t need more employees, hire them anyway because the economy will grow and the employees will eventually be needed.

That’s another example of Obama’s disengagement from the way that American businesses actually work. Why not buy a car for your child when he or she is born because in about 16 years they will be old enough to drive it?

In general, Obama said many of the things he should have said two years ago. In fact, according to The New York Times, he admitted he made a bad strategic mistake by not engaging with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier. He tried to lighten the mood by suggesting that he should have brought over fruitcake when he first moved into the White House.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is reported to have said: “We’ll just have to wait and see whether the administration’s actions support its rhetoric.” McConnell urged Obama to prove his intentions to help the business community by doing more to push through Congress the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

This makes perfect sense since Obama has already vowed to double U.S. exports within five years and has made some progress, albeit painfully slow, in ratifying the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. He has said publicly he supports the free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, so what is he waiting for?

As you would expect, Obama’s decision to address the chamber ratcheted up the ire of liberals who have accused him of “consorting with the very forces that have worked to undercut his policies.”

According to The New York Times, Public Citizen, a liberal group in Washington, issued a statement condemning the president’s comment that he would “go anywhere” in the world to promote trade, a line that prompted one of the few moments of applause from the crowd of business leaders.

“It’s unclear what is more mortifying: President Barack Obama choosing the club of America’s notorious job-offshorers to talk about the importance of creating American jobs, or his rallying of his fiercest political opponents to help him overcome the majority of Americans who oppose more-of-the-same job-killing trade agreements,’ said Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

What is it going to take to give these naysayers a dose of reality when it comes to the relationship between exports and job creation?

Francisco J. Sánchez, who serves as undersecretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, recently predicted that passing the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement will generate $11 billion in revenue for the U.S. and create some 70,000 U.S. jobs. Does this sound like a job killer?

According to a report by the International Trade Administration, entitled “Exports Support American Jobs,” the percentage of GDP represented by exports is the highest in nearly a century and is indicative of how important exports will be in any effort to encourage economic growth and the creation of new jobs.

In 2008, the United States exported nearly $1.7 trillion in goods and services. These exports supported more than 10 million full- and part-time jobs and accounted for 12.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Export-supported jobs rose to 10.3 million in 2008 from 7.6 million in 1993, an increase of 2.7 million jobs. This increase accounted for 40 percent of total job growth in the United States during this period.

Let me repeat, U.S. exports create U.S. jobs.

If Obama is willing to talk with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, maybe Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, can find the time to walk over, too. It will be an enlightening experience for her.

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I was very pleased that President Barack Obama recently addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization with which he has had a contentious relationship. The chamber is a very short distance across Lafayette Square from the White House, so it is mind-boggling it...
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