Ignorance is at the root of Japan-bashing, Rep. Jim Slattery, R-Kan., said today at a breakfast seminar at Alvamar Country Club.
During the seminar, sponsored by Kansas International Inc., a Lawrence-based group that promotes international business with the state, Slattery said the United States must face the fact that "no matter if we like it or not, we are a part of a global economy."
Before he began his presentation, which centered on trade, Slattery said he was pleased to be invited to the meeting and joked that "in light of what's happening in Congress, we're delighted to be invited anywhere."
About 60 people attended this morning's seminar. Julie Love, executive director of Kansas International, 1321 Wakarusa, said about 100 people belong to the not-for-profit corporation.
Slattery commended members of the group for promoting trade. He said America's survival depends on its ability to compete.
The congressman called Japan-bashing "one of the things I think is troubling today.''
He said Americans and the Japanese need to come to grips with "how interwoven our futures are." Slattery said many Americans' jobs are dependent upon Japanese companies.
FOR EXAMPLE, he said 45 Japanese companies in Missouri and Kansas employ 3,000 people in this area.
But Slattery noted that the "Japanese need us as much as we need the Japanese."
Slattery also spoke about relations with Mexico. He said President Bush must address concerns about wages, the environment, worker safety and other business-related standards in Mexico. He said the U.S. risks losing companies and jobs to Mexico because of the lure of low wages there.
Somehow, the U.S. must figure out how to raise standards in Mexico while not compromising its own standards.
Slattery said that although Bush is the only person empowered to negotiate trade agreements, Congress plays a role. When he, Pat Roberts, Dan Glickman and other Kansas lawmakers discuss trade agreements, they'll be asking "What does it mean for agriculture and ag exports?" and other Kansas businesses, Slattery said.
But Slattery said he knew that during the '90s, it would be important to do "everything we can to expand trade in North America."
Slattery said "thousands of jobs in Kansas are dependent upon trade with Mexico." Asked by a Kansas International member whether he believes it is realistic to think that Mexico will improve its standards, Slattery said, "It's going to take a long period of time."
IN OTHER matters, Slattery said cuts to the Pentagon budget must be accompanied by an economic conversion plan. He said Bush "can't just put people out on the street."
He said whoever is elected president would need to set national goals for the United States, such as mass production of an automobile that gets 100 miles per gallon by year 2000. In 1961, President Kennedy said that he'd have a man on the moon within the decade, Slattery noted, "And the American people said `Amen! Let's go.''' He said the U.S. needs that kind of "government-focused effort."
Asked about Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot's plea for the presidency, Slattery said he had read Perot's speeches and didn't find any meat in them.
"He's masterfully touching all the hot buttons" but not offering any solid solutions, Slattery said.