U.S. economic vitality requires Americans to overcome fear of international competition, a Clinton administration official says.
International trade expert Mary Good would be wealthy if she could bottle and sell the anxiety Americans feel about overseas competition.
Good, undersecretary of technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce, explained Friday at Kansas University's 20th annual Economic Outlook Conference that unease about the country's place in world economic affairs was misdirected.
"The global game is ours to lose," she told about 200 business leaders, educators and public officials. "The United States has the most powerful economic engine in the world. This new era is tailor-made for America."
Good, former senior vice president with Allied Signal Corp., said the demise of the Cold War allowed economic growth to come to the forefront of the nation's agenda.
In the future, she said, federal and state governments will have more opportunity to work with private industry to more efficiently use the basics of business -- capital, labor, technology -- to expand international trade.
Technology will be the biggest factor in developing a stronger U.S. economy, Good said.
She said Americans could compete better on the international stage by reducing the federal budget deficit and reforming tax and regulatory policy.
In addition, the country needs to maintain a world-class science research infrastructure at colleges and universities. Developing a sophisticated manufacturing supply base and producing skilled employees will always be critical, she said.
"Education is more important than ever before," Good said.
She said the stakes were high. Every $1 billion in exports supported 14,000 jobs in the United States; exports account for 10 percent of U.S. jobs.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, lectured on trade policy at the conference. He's chair of the Senate subcommittee on international trade.
He said the Midwest -- especially the region's agricultural sector -- benefited from international business agreements that expand trade.
"Free trade creates jobs," said Grassley, the only family farmer in the U.S. Senate. "Without the ability to export, we'd not be as prosperous part of the country as we are."
Grassley said it was critical to expand trade pacts that include sanctions for countries refusing to abide by free-trade principles.
"Too often we enter into sound trade agreements and see other countries default," he said. "We must keep competitors' feet to the fire."
The senator said Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, opponents of international trade agreements known as GATT and NAFTA, didn't have the country's best interests at heart.
"They want to build, as you can tell, a wall around America," Grassley said. "In the case of Buchanan, it was political demagoguery."
If Buchanan and Perot had their way, Grassley said the state of Iowa would be in economic ruin by the year 2000. Economists believe 31 percent of Iowa farmer income by then will come from exports, he said.
"I don't know many farmers who can eliminate 31 percent from their bottom line and survive," Grassley said.