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United States and Free Trade

September 05, 1985

I am thoroughly disgusted with crybabies in the American Congress. On the one hand they demand open market access for American products abroad. On the other they are conning the American people into believing that job losses in some industries can be redressed with import restrictions. Were these industries critical to national defense, there could be cause for concern; but shoes and clothing?

Recently, a government spokesman revealed that more Americans are employed now than at any time in our nation's history. This means obviously that despite some industrial job losses, there has been more than an adequate makeup in other industries.

My boyhood town was once a center for cowboy boots, boasting three small factories. Today there are none, not due to foreign competition, but because of market changes and another American bootmaker making a more economical and saleable product. Former employees found new jobs, and most are now delighted they were "victims of progress" since they have better jobs and increased their income.

What is conveniently forgotten in current trade rhetoric is that only 30 cents out of every retail dollar goes to the manufacturer. By curtailing imports, one may keep a few manufacturing jobs, but put 70 cents worth of American jobs at risk in marketing, transport, distribution, advertising and retailing.

No society progresses by going backwards. Trade restrictions only relieve a factory from the necessity to be competitive. That means that you, I, and every other consumer are guaranteeing someone's job. And who is guaranteeing mine?

Importing less is no long-term solution. To redress our imbalance of payments, we must export more. That is a positive approach to problem-solving. A negative regressive action such as restrictions gives our trading partners a valid reason to discriminate against American goods in their countries.

What must be done is for Americans to use their wealth of assets and skills to search out international markets, and manufacture American products for those markets. The international marketplace has an excess of disposable income. Most foreign nationals exceed Americans in savings of income. They would welcome American products designed and made exclusively for them, not overruns or seconds that are often shipped overseas when they cannot be sold domestically.

The time has come for American factories to take up the John F. Kennedy challenge and stop asking their country to do for them. They have the talent and capacity to really do something for their country.


San Diego

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