Trade Negotiator and Civility Promoter in Chief

Last week, I wrote about the successful Institute for Education/INFO policy breakfast with Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, United States trade representative. The ambassador has a critical mission in negotiating with foreign governments to create trade agreements, resolve disputes and participate in global trade policy organizations. The ambassador meets with governments, business groups, legislators and public interest groups to gather input on trade issues and explain the president’s trade policy positions.

Though free trade agreements involve a mutually agreeable pact by the foreign and U.S governments, both Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) appear to be isolationists. Fear has grown in the U.S. that by engaging in a trade agreement, we run the risk of losing our competitive edge to developing countries. Since when has competition become a bad word? This fear may not be unfounded — but it is misguided. Job loss is not stealing jobs. It is competition. The race to be a low-wage country is not a race that the U.S should have any interest participating in. China has its share of job losses and factory closings — to Vietnam. The name of the game, today and for our future, is global competition. Innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship will allow flexibility in creating new markets, new products and services.

Since the job-loss argument is so prominent, the intrinsic value that free trade agreements capture gets lost. These developing economies need a stabilizing force, such as capitalism. Capitalism creates jobs and new industries; the balance of capitalism fosters personal and community development. Education, community and a balanced economy are the driving forces of civility in nations. Capitalism and civility go hand in hand. As my previous column stated:

A well-connected global economy is an absolute — not just for capitalism but for civility.

Trade is critical to economic growth of exports, imports and new markets — and a transparent and honest government; without those components, civility will never succeed. The United States, in the past, has been an example of diplomacy and civility; we should remember our lessons and engage our neighbors with trade and civics. Competition is a win-win for every economy.




Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership locally, nationally and in the world community.