Monday, October 04, 2010

People now more ‘soured’ than ever on trade and off-shoring

Almost all managers and professionals believe that outsourcing of production and manufacturing work to foreign countries is a reason the U.S. economy is struggling and few are being hired. That’s a surprising finding of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll.

The exact percentage of managers and professionals who hold that view is 95%. The lowest figure is 75% for retired people.

Another surprising finding published in the October 4 Journal: 90% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats take the negative position on outsourcing and its stifling effect on the U.S. economy.

The Journal’s page one story, headlined “Americans Sour on Trade,” also dealt with another question: “Do you think free-trade agreements have helped or hurt the U.S.?”

Hurt the U.S., according to more than half (53%) of those surveyed, up from 46% three years ago and 32% in 1999, according to the Journal.

In analyzing the total results of the survey, the Journal added:

“Even Americans most likely to be winners from trade – upper income, well-educated professionals, whose jobs are less likely to go overseas and whose industries are often buoyed by demand from international markets – are increasingly skeptical.”
What if Congress were to pass legislation in response to the U.S. multi-billion dollar trade deficit with China now that public opinion is increasingly “sour”?

In the October 4 issue the Journal did not comment on that possibility, which it would normally denounce as triggering a “trade war.” But in the September 27 Washington Post column, economics writer Robert J. Samuelson deals with a possible trade war were the U.S. to adopt a policy of “Standing up to China,” as his article is titled. His answer, as expressed in its subtitle: “A trade war may be the lesser of two evils.”

The basic problem with China, Samuelson points out, is that it has never genuinely accepted the rules governing the world trading system, Its major victim is the United States, at a crippling cost in American jobs and to U.S.-based companies.

China benefits from a trading system subordinate to its needs, which Samuelson says includes ample export markets to support the jobs necessary to keep the Communist party in power.

“The collision,” he writes, “is between two concepts of the world order…The United States faces a dreadful choice: resist China’s ambitions and risk a trade war in which everyone loses; or do nothing and let China remake the trading system. The first would be dangerous; the second, potentially disastrous.”
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