Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, United States Trade Representative, spoke at last week’s overflowing Institute for Education/INFO policy breakfast. IFE/INFO forum regular Craig Helsing referred to all five of her titles: doctor, dean, general, honorable and ambassador. Not bad! It was an honor to host her, especially with the pending free trade agreements and so much discussion on the free trade debate this 2008 primary season. Ambassador Schwab is at the nexus of Tom Friedman’s flat world.

President Bush’s last State of the Union address prominently featured trade talk. He spent more time on it than in any other State of the Union. It is a big issue on the campaign trail, especially for the Democrats. Nominees Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) seem to be all over each other on this issue.

Schwab spoke of trade adjustment assistance. All the anti-traders should listen up here. Global finical markets are an absolute; multinational corporations are an absolute. A well-connected global economy is an absolute. So, sports fans, give up isolationist inclinations. Do not be a Neanderthal.

A skilled workforce is critical in today’s global economy.

We all should be spending our energies on the importance of trade adjustment assistance. It is imperative that we find solutions to assist people and communities that have been negatively affected. Displaced automotive employees, as a result of factory closings, need educational programs or re-training so they have a skill-set that will allow them to compete in our flat world.

Trade is critical to economic growth of exports, imports and new markets.

Trade liberalizing agreements have to be beneficial to our fundamental competitiveness. Global gompetitiveness only happens when countries have few trade barriers. It is not complicated.

But here is some data:

• Bilateral trade between the United States and Chile has more than doubled since the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) took effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

• U.S.–Chile trade totaled $16.4 billion in 2006, a remarkable increase of 154 percent over pre-FTA bilateral trade in 2003, which totaled $6.4 billion. This is a 38 percent increase over 2005.

• Chile has benefited tremendously from the FTA; U.S. imports from Chile grew from $3.7 billion in 2003 to $9.6 billion in 2006, an increase of 158 percent.

• The United States was Chile’s top source of imports and the main destination for Chile’s exports in 2006.

• Reflecting the growing trade relationship, Chile’s ranking as a top U.S. export market continues to improve; in 2006, Chile was positioned as the 28th largest export market for the U.S.

The ambassador is obviously a skilled negotiator. She has to sell an idea that countries feel is fair and would be a win-win. This is tough going when you have Brazil, China, India and developing advanced countries experiencing job growth and new products and markets. America has never been intimidated by our neighbors’ prosperity — we should embrace it. The world is flat. Susan Schwab is an effective and savvy spokeswoman for free and fair trade.

Trade is critical to America’s prosperity — fueling economic growth, supporting good jobs at home, raising living standards and helping Americans provide for their families with affordable goods and services.

The United States is one of the most open economies in the world. It is strong, dynamic and competitive. It is not perfect, but it is the best out there, by far.

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.