Guest Column: U.S. must revisit trade policy

Guest Column: U.S. must revisit trade policy

By Senator Dave Syverson

Every day through the media, whether it is in the newspaper, on the radio or on TV, we hear about yet another Illinois-based or national-based manufacturer who has chosen to move their company overseas, especially to China. As I hear these stories, I become more and more frustrated by our country’s “trade policy”, which clearly is not working. Last month alone, the United States had a record trade deficit of $38 billion. Not surprisingly, the country with the largest trade gap with the United States is China, which has reached $43 billion so far this year.

Remember when the experts said, let China make the toys because these are low-paying jobs and we don’t need them? Then the same experts said, let China make the clothes because these are low-paying jobs and we’ll concentrate on manufacturing. Then, in the ’90s, the same experts said, let China do the basic manufacturing and we’ll concentrate on technology. Well, why should we be surprised that China is now doing all of the aforementioned, plus also taking our technology? Last month alone China sent $1.2 billion in computer accessories to the United States.

Most Americans are beginning to believe that our country’s number one export is our jobs. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that China’s economy is growing at 8 percent this year, while ours is struggling along at 1 percent.

While I strongly support trade and believe it is necessary, it must be fair trade! When you have a country such as China who does not have to worry about environmental laws, OSHA, unemployment, workers’ compensation, health insurance, paying a living wage or a myriad of other rules and regulations that American manufacturers are faced, with, how does anyone expect our companies to compete?

So, what is the solution? First, we must reach the point where we agree that fundamental problems exist with our current trade policies in the United States, and this trade policy has caused the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Of course, this is easier said than done because, as consumers, we have come to rely on the low-cost foreign products that are dumped into our retail outlet stores.

Secondly, we must recognize that superficial solutions to problems like the one implemented earlier this year where tariffs were placed on a single product, raw steel, coming into our country will not work. If tariffs are placed on raw products and not on finished goods, it only becomes more difficult for companies to compete with the foreign products being dumped here.

Third, both labor and management must realize this is a war for our jobs, and sacrifices are going to need to be made by all.

Fourth, we must convince governments at all levels to back down on ridiculous regulations and burdensome taxes. These difficult requirements only serve to drive up costs and make us less competitive in a world economy.

Lastly, it needs to be made clear to our allies that if we are going to be the defenders of the world, we must remain strong. Either they must start picking up a large portion of our defense and foreign aid bills, or they must at least work with us to develop a trade policy that works.

As I said, this won’t be accomplished without any difficulty, but if we do not make fair trade a priority, we will continue to see our good-paying jobs exit our country, leaving us with lower- paying service industry jobs. As a country, the United States has faced many difficult and seemingly insurmountable hurdles, but we have always risen to the challenge. September 11th has shown that we can unite as a family when faced by an outside threat. This is a real threat, and it is time to put partisan politics aside and work to protect our jobs and our families.

Senator Dave Syverson is an Illinois State Senator

from the 34th Legislative District.

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