Are We Losing the Globalization Debate?
Eskew, Mike, Chief Executive (U.S.)
THE FREE-TRADE MESSAGE IS FAILING BECAUSE THE U.S. DOESN'T GET IT.
American business leaders who believe in free and fair trade are at risk of losing a significant battle. The small but vocal anti-globalization movement has pushed its message forward with great force and tenacity. We're facing a significant disconnect with the greater public. A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll shows that 54 percent of Americans believe global trade is bad for American workers and our economy. These fears threaten to promote economic isolationism, which would be disastrous for U.S. business, workers and the economy.
One could argue that we in the business community have not done a very good job framing and promoting the benefits of trade. The free trade message fails to resonate because it is not widely understood. Trade and economic literacy in this country simply has never ranked as a national priority.
On top of that, globalization is being cast as a political issue. Instead, it should be heralded as one of the greatest success stories of our era. As business leaders, we can control and turn around the bruised reputation of global trade. I would like to suggest five specific areas where we can do that:
First, we need to make sure our educational system is aligned with the global marketplace. We need to ask ourselves, "Are we producing enough engineers, scientists, technologists, materials researchers, manufacturing and trade specialists and other professional services that are in such huge demand and so needed to ensure our competitive vitality?" The answer, of course, is a resounding "No." Almost 50 years ago, Sputnik not only launched the race for space, but was the catalyst for encouraging tens of thousands of American kids to study science, math and engineering. We need a similar wake-up call today.
Secondly, we need to make global trade literacy a priority. It's encouraging to see the good work of several organizations in this area. One is the Southern Center for International Studies in my hometown of Atlanta, which has developed a curriculum to train every social studies teacher in the state of Georgia on glohal trade and geography.
A third way to meet the challenges of the anti-globalization movement is by supporting programs and policies that address training and career development for all of those who have been displaced by international trade. …