Trade and Global Sourcing Summit: Trade Policy Panel (Dispatch Two)

The first panel at International Trade Policy Breaking Point is unfolding as I write (you can join us live via this link). William Strauss, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, kicked off the discussion with a great summary of the current state of Manufacturing. Bill argued that manufacturing was actually on very solid footing in December of 2007 before the recession. Then we "took it on the chin" and the automotive and primary metals industry fell the most.

Yet these two industries are now leading us out of the recession, growing faster than other elements of the economy. But despite this growth, jobs aren't returning as fast as they have historically following past downturns. Bill suggested that "the reason we can gain this output is that because it is being driven by productivity ... [yet] the flip-side of productivity is that you can do more with less. Often time, that less is labor."

Following Bill's introduction, Jennifer Diggins, Corporate Public affairs on behalf of Nucor, talked about the current state of trade and the policies being introduced and debated in Congress, focused on China's currency manipulation and its relation to the trade balance and impact on manufacturing. Jennifer suggested that the House and Senate are together looking at three separate policy remedies and that there is "real hope" for bipartisan action. From a policy standpoint, Jennifer and Nucor also support the notion of new energy and transportation bills as a stimulus for the domestic manufacturing economy and sustainable growth.

Interestingly, back on the China and trade issue, Spend Matters is aware of a loose coalition / collaboration between labor, manufacturing organizations and tea-party types that appear to be aligned in addressing the trade issue and China specifically. Whether or not this group of strange trade bedfellows makes their voice heard in Congress at a level that results in legislation sent to President Obama for signing remains to be seen. You can be sure if legislation is signed into law, the China price for US manufacturers will rise.

Next up was Timothy Brightbill, of Wiley Rein LLC, a trade expert, who gave a summary of the current state of activity at the world trade organization. He also touched on current issues within China outside of currency impacting US businesses including "intellectual property, government control over key industries, Internet and censorship." According to Tim, there have been increasing levels of activity at the WTO of late across a range of trade and related issues (e.g., (countervailing duties, dumping, etc.).

- Jason Busch

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