One of the first things any budding reporter learns in Journalism 101 is to look for the conflict, find the conflict and write about the conflict. As a result, today’s print and broadcast media are conflict driven, sometimes making mountains out of comparative molehills of disagreement, or out of no disagreement at all. And so it is that those who would divide us manufacturers, those who need a story to file, write about the “great gulf” between large and small manufacturers. Some like to demonize the nameless, faceless, “multinational” companies, ignoring, of course, that virtually all small manufacturers either have foreign operations, are fierce exporters or supply a company that exports around the globe.
As if we needed it, we were reminded again last month that the supposed great gulf between large and small is more illusory than real. In the announcement of the NAM’s 2005 Trade Agenda, there was in fact no difference at all. How disappointing to those who need conflict to survive.
After four months of well-attended meetings by manufacturers large and small, at a press conference on January 31, we announced our trade agenda. As you might expect, it is equal parts export promotion, trade liberalization and enforcement. Recognizing that 80 percent of our trade deficit is with countries with which we have no trade agreement, the agenda supports approval of trade agreements like CAFTA that have already been negotiated and recommends five countries for near-term trade agreements and five on a “watch list” for the near future. On the export front, the group recommended renewed efforts at expanding exports promotion – and financing – to the red hot China market.
And, speaking of China, the group issued a seperate and delicated China agenda, including a call for the end of Chinese currency manipulation and subsidization, enforcement of intellectual property laws and full compliance with WTO rules.
One SMM involved for the first time in an NAM trade discussion (and fearing the worst) noted how understanding and sympathetic the large companies were to his plight throughout the discussions. Imagine that. At the end of the process, an SMM who had earlier brought into the flawed “multinational” lexicon and all its attendant paranoia signed on to the final agenda, noting that the four months of meetings “ended in a win for everyone.” While others may have been surprised, we were not.
The NAM’s 2005 Trade Agenda shows once again what we’ve always known, i.e., that there is general agreement among manufacturers large and small that trade benefits everyone. We must be about the business of finding new customers. However, if the world trading system is going to work, there needs to be basic respect for intellectual property rights and WTO rules.
This has been our agenda from the start and has now been newly blessed by a group of small and large manufacturers. Peace broke out, not much news there.
Legendary manufacturing lobbyist Bryce Harlow said that if we in the business community could stop dividing ourselves there’d be no end to what we can accomplish. With the 2005 Trade Agenda, we are unified and on our way.
Pat Cleary is the NAM’s senior vice president. To read more of his thoughts on manufacturing, join the NAM blog at http://blog.nam.org.
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