Dan McGroaty kicked of the second panel with a discussion on public perception of trade. He captured the public reaction to trade, citing survey data from the Pew Center of Research. Citizens of Canada, Japan, EU, Mexico, India, Brazil support trade strongly. China, ironically, is less supportive of trade (only 45% of those surveyed in China believe trade is good). What an irony!
When it comes to free trade agreements in particular, when the economy soured, public perception of free trade agreements dropped. Yet Dan suggests we're generally trending to free trade agreements as a positive. Does free trade help more than it hurts? Nearly 50% of individuals surveyed believe it hurts them (and this is rising). Less than 30% believe it helps them. The majority of Americans believe trade costs jobs, lowers wages, and slows growth. Because of this, Dan summed things up when he suggested that the "American public is not there" from a trade standpoint.
Jim Lawton began his talk by noting that trade is fraught with risk. Our fundamental challenge is instilling in our organizations the discipline and structure to manage the tightrope that exists around going after these opportunities. Jim suggested that understanding and acknowledging the impact that global issues can have even when good trade relations exist (e.g., as in Egypt today) is essential. "We have found that issues that start in one region can cause issues in other regions. You must pay attention to the broader, big picture," Jim suggests.
- Jason Busch