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International Trade Highlights Day One Of CEA Washington Forum


U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez Delivers Opening Keynote Address
The economic impact of international trade and the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign were key themes throughout Day One of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® Washington Forum. A two-day event focused on critical policy and business issues shaping the technology industry, the CEA Washington Forum runs through today at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC.

The Forum’s opening keynote address was delivered by the Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, marking the first time a U.S. Cabinet member has spoken at the event. Emphasizing the importance of free trade agreements, including the pending agreement with Columbia, Secretary Gutierrez cautioned,“This is not the time to debate free trade because the rest of the world is not waiting.” Gutierrez stated that 12 percent of the economy has been driven by exports, creating the highest growth percentage in history. He spoke passionately about the positive effects trade has on our society and how the CE industry has been a huge driver in economic growth. Secretary Gutierrez closed by thanking attendees “for keeping America thriving, competitive and innovative and making life better.”

Continuing the focus on trade, Wednesday’s second keynote address, “How We Can Win on Trade,” presented by Anne Kim, director of the middle class program and senior policy advisor, Third Way, provided insight and answers to the current obstacles facing international trade. Kim examined public perception of trade and how that is affecting the 2008 presidential campaign. She summarized her remarks by saying that we must ask ourselves whether we will look at the coming century with fear or with confidence.

Moderated by CEA Senior Director of International Trade, Sage Chandler, the first panel session of the day examined the global supply chain and the impact of free trade on American businesses and workers. Small business owner Kathy Gornik, president and co-founder of THIEL Audio, presented the trade policy debate as a simple “makers” and “takers” situation, in which entrepreneurs dependent upon trade to succeed are the makers and the government represents a taker that should play a limited role to allow innovation to flourish. Economists on the panel debated whether or not trade creates or eliminates jobs and if American environmental and labor standards should be imposed on partners. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Sean Spicer held up a model truck at the end of the panel to help visualize the benefits of trade. He explained that 11,000 Americans are employed by industrial equipment manufacturer Caterpillar - a company that would benefit from the pending free trade agreement with Colombia through increased exports and decreased tariffs. “We need to educate consumers about the impact of trade on the individual,” he said.

Political consultants Donna Brazile and Tony Blankley shared their views on the 2008 electoral landscape as Wednesday’s luncheon keynote speakers at CEA’s Washington Forum. Both agreed that 2008 should be the Democrats’ year, but that political success could be impacted if people are polarized by demographic factors, including race, age, sex and socioeconomic status. Blankley said it is the most race conscious electorate he has seen in his lifetime and that this does not bode well for the future. Brazile countered with details of the younger generation’s enthusiastic participation in a historic voting process that could produce the first African American or female President of the United States. Brazile and Blankley discussed the economic realities facing the presidential candidates, with Blankley saying that all trade treaties are good and Brazile stating the Democratic party’s preference of including environmental and labor policies within trade agreements.

Also on Wednesday, CEA’s Small Business Council presented two sessions, the first titled, “The Question Behind the Question: How Personal Accountability Affects the Success of Your Business.” John Miller, author of a best-selling book by the same title, discussed how to build strong teams and remove barriers to problem solving by helping organizations make personal accountability a core value. He noted that the ultimate question behind the question is, “how can I let go of what I can’t control?” Miller stressed asking the right questions, which should look at what you can do to make a difference rather than blaming others for things gone wrong.

Ron Huntington, owner of Executive Mentors and Trainers in Seattle, WA, led the second Small Business Council session titled, “Developing the Strategic Plan.” Huntington provided the audience several strategic tips to help propel their companies to the next level. “There are four decisions every business must get right in order to grow their company,” Huntington said. “Find the right people to work for you, develop a disciplined strategy, execute that strategy and determine your source of financing.”

The final afternoon session, “Trade: Where Economics Meets Politics,” kicked off with a video filmed in Lenoir, N.C. - an area devastated by lost manufacturing jobs until its rebirth as the Research Triangle - illustrating that free trade enables rural areas to prosper. The panel led by CEA’s Economist Shawn Dubravac looked at the uncertain global economy and how the future of free trade could be impacted. The panelists were frustrated by the slow movement on the pending free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. Former Congressman Victor Fazio, senior advisor, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP said, “It has been 500 days since the Columbia agreement was signed and it is yet to be submitted to Congress. We need a bipartisan agreement signed now.” The Honorable Chris Padilla added, “We don’t want to tear apart North America’s supply chains by dismantling NAFTA,” referring to comments made by democratic political candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He added,“This calls for political leadership and not playing with people’s fears.”

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