KANTOR: GO GLOBAL TO SURVIVE
Byline: Stuart Chirls
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor told textile executives meeting here that they can no longer ignore the realities of a global economy if they expect to thrive.
But, in what sounded to some members of the audience like a campaign speech at times, Kantor said President Clinton has “stood up for the American worker” by opening up foreign markets “to insure that we prosper in the new era.”
Clinton has done this, Kantor said, “by expanding trade, enforcing our trade agreements and trade laws, and by restoring the domestic economy.”
Kantor spoke Friday via video satellite to the 47th annual meeting of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, a three-day parley that ended Saturday.
He flatly told the industry, which has lost thousands of jobs to cheaper foreign competition, that only by embracing the developing global economy can American business continue to grow.
“Nostalgia for a time when we made, bought and sold most products in the United States is understandable,” he said, “but it doesn’t provide any answers on how to create jobs at a time when the nations of the world are interdependent.”
Kantor noted new markets can be opened only if the U.S. and its trading partners are playing on a level field.
“The days of the Cold War, when we sometimes looked the other way when our trading partners failed to live up to their obligations, are over,” he said.
Kantor insisted the export market would play a vital role in building the economy and creating more jobs at home.
“Trade now equals over 30 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, up from 13 percent in 1970,” he said. “Over 11 million workers in this country owe their jobs to exports. On average, these jobs pay 13 to 17 percent more than nontrade jobs. Every billion dollars of exports supports 15,000 jobs.”
Kantor attacked protectionists, saying the U.S. cannot “cower behind walls of fear.” He noted the Clinton administration has signed nearly 200 trade agreements since 1992, by far the most in U.S. history in that length of time, and pursued a “tough, realistic and fair” trade policy, including sanctions against China to reduce illegal transshipments of textiles and apparel.
Acknowledging that the domestic textile and apparel industries will have a difficult transition under the new Uruguay Round rules, Kantor said the U.S. “has gone to some lengths” to help the industry adjust. “We have concluded 75 new agreements with the significant textile and apparel producing countries to open their markets to our exports.”
He said the administration acceded to the domestic industry’s request to establish a new assembly rule of origin and made 22 calls for new quotas in nine product categories under World Trade Organization rules.
Following Kantor, Shelly Lazarus, president and chief operating officer of the Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide advertising agency, spoke of the importance of creating a brand image as a key to selling consumers overwhelmed by choices. She said Cotton Incorporated, an O&M client, and Levi Strauss are two textile-related companies that have successfully remade their products into brands.
Also speaking at the general session was John Clendenin, chairman and chief executive officer of BellSouth Corp., who said industries of all stripes need to join the communications revolution to make the most of opportunities.