Free trade is under attack, says Michael Petricone, SVP of Government Affairs with the Consumer Electronics Association. On Monday, Petricone held a conference with lawmakers to fight back.
In a parking lot in downtown Denver, Petricone and government representatives from New York and Colorado held a press conference to discuss what they see as politicians using trade as a scapegoat for a soft economy. “Frankly we’re worried because the tide of public discussion has changed,” says Petricone. “It is not recognized that trade is good.”
Petricone and other CEA executives are travelling across the United States in a massive bus, plastered with images of US electronics goods that are sold abroad, to promote a free trade agenda. The bus rolled into Denver on Friday to push Congress to open up more unrestricted markets to US businesses and pass pending legislation that would remove tarrifs in Colombia, Korea, and Panama. “Colombian goods come in to the US duty free and approval of the Colombian FTA would make US goods come in to that country duty free as well,” says Petricone. “On an economic basis there is no earthly reason to oppose this.”
Exports generated $1.6 trillion into the economy in 2008. Petricone and others project that, despite the strengthening dollar, that number will grow in the next 12 months—providing law makers don’t pass legislation to hinder the ability of US companies to sell products abroad. Such legislation has gained momentum as the slowing economy has lead more Americans to face unemployment and worry about their jobs going overseas as a consequence of bringing in cheaper American products.
Free Trade is particularly important to the CEA because around 20% of the industry’s revenues come from exports. They fear that what they call protectionist trade policies could limit those profits or slow growth.
Gregory Meeks, a Democratic congressman from NY who spoke at the Monday press conference, says trade is not to blame for a slowing US economy. He used the example of automated toll paying devices, such as EZPass, that have cost some highway employees their jobs. People associate those lost jobs with trade or immigration, he says, when the true culprit is technology.
“The truth of the matter is we have a bad economy today and some people are suffering and what some people would like to do is to find a culprit,” said Meeks. “People are losing their jobs but it is because the market is becoming more efficient with technology, it’s not because of trade.”