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Cafe Society to discuss the importance of trade to the U.S. economy

By Staff | Jul 15, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on July 19 will discuss the important role that foreign trade plays in our nation’s economy.

Several candidates in the national Presidential campaign have sought to generate political support by attacking current trade initiatives and prior Free Trade agreements that they argue are the cause of critical job losses. Donald Trump has broadened this into an assault on our role in the globalized world economy in general.

These are visceral and evocative arguments that do little more than spread hate and discontent. We are first and foremost a vibrant international economic power that recognizes and exploits opportunities for reciprocating exchanges of goods and services.

The informal weekly Cafe Society discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin explained, “Even if we had the political will to withdraw from the World economy, we would not get very far before utter chaos forced reconsideration.

“This is simply campaign rhetoric that might make you feel good for a few moments, but would ensure a terrible hangover come morning. It is not by accident that the U.S. economy is faring better than that of other nations around the world.

“Our political leaders and their economic advisors have worked hard since the end of World War II to lead in building a world-wide system, largely of our own design that plays to our strengths providing for economic growth, stability and security.

“We couldn’t walk away from the fabric of the interlocking and interdependent systems that we built, even if we wanted to.

“Starting with the United Nations and its economic and social machinery, the Marshall Plan, the Point Four Plan to encourage technical development, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and its growing legacy of subsequent negotiating rounds and a progression of bi and multi-lateral Free Trade Arrangements all designed to ensure unencumbered access to markets for the excess supply of goods and services that fuel our comparatively high standard of living.”

He went on to say, “We are a maturing society (aging in fact) and the labor component is no longer the primary ingredient of the economic models that keep us in a leadership role in the world economy.

“We are still blessed with comparative advantage (our Manifest Destiny) of abundant land and natural resources, public infrastructure, capital resources, and advances in technology that have allowed us to turn America into an agricultural and industrial cornucopia. We should not lose sight of the fact that we didn’t do it alone.

“We have drawn heavily on the intellectual and capital, as well as the human resources and productive work ethics of other nations and cultures to retain the lead.

“But now other nations are catching up. This is In part, because we have shared with them many of the political and economic tools that we developed. We have to keep innovating to retain the comparative edge, part of which is access to inexpensive consumer goods, a surfeit of food, comprehensive medical care, a benign environment and general public safety.

“We still play a substantial, at times dominant role in the globalized economic system. The outcome of the ‘Cold War” is a case in point. But the system is hardly operating in ‘automatic.’

“It is very dynamic, buffeted by financial cross currents, and competing national objectives, which require constant reassessment and active management.

“But it is a game that we know how to play,” Austin concluded.