We are conducting listening sessions-- in the form of conversations--with a cross-section of Americans about their experiences with international trade and globalization. We want to hear opinions on what is needed for America and Americans to remain competitive in the 21st century.
- Build a new, nonpartisan, publicly-supported dynamic set of U.S. policies around international trade and investment.
- Provide easy-to-understand, information to the public about international trade.
- Provide a conduit for ongoing public engagement and discussion around international trade and globalization.
Phase I will take place in Michigan and Ohio beginning in early 2018 with a view to expanding to the rest of the Midwest and then to the rest of the United States. We are innovating the methodology for engagement by marrying informal conversations with focus groups. Both the informal conversations and the focus groups reflect diverse cross-sections of society.
Those conducting the sessions are experienced in international trade and investment policy. Sessions are meticulously documented. Based on the results of the sessions, an advisory board of eminent U.S. leaders in the area of international trade and investment will help shape recommendations for new policies and programs. The recommendations will be updated through a continuous loop of input from the public to ensure that policies stay on the right track.
To assist in meaningful public engagement, over the long term, we will provide up-to-date, impartial, fact-based information about international trade that is geared to individual states and localities and can foster continued conversation.
The dynamics of the U.S. economy are continuing to evolve as a result of technological advances and continued globalization The 70-year political consensus in the United States that open trade and investment policies would provide the most benefit to the country and its people is now frayed. Some have benefited greatly from these past policies and others have not. At present, there is no publicly -supported consensus on what U.S. trade and investment policy should look like and no organized plan on how to deal with the negative effects of globalization on individuals. This lack of a well though-out policy will ultimately harm the country and its citizens as we will need to continue to compete in an increasingly globalized world.
A new consensus on the elements of U.S. trade and investment policy that will benefit Americans and secure our future must be built and take into account input from the public.
Since 2018, Listening for America has engaged a diverse cross-section of Americans in informal conversations and focus groups to discuss their experiences with international trade and globalization. Beginning in the Midwest, and expanding throughout the United States, we have heard opinions on what is needed for America and Americans to remain competitive in the 21st century. To date, we have conducted several hundred sessions and met with over a thousand people.
We have also met with State and local government officials, including Mayors and economic development officials across the country to understand which policies, interventions and engagement strategies have been most effective for their communities in today’s globalized economy. Cities as diverse as Greenville, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Houston, Texas have all had strategic and successful plans for participating in the world economy. We are looking at how such city/state plans can fit into a broader U.S. international trade strategy.
As we continue Phase I of Listening for America, we are also beginning to execute Phase II. We are:
- developing and testing value propositions about international trade and globalization that resonate with a cross-section of Americans;
- developing easy-to-understand, impartial, factual information for the public about international trade; and
- developing a new paradigm for American citizen and local engagement with U.S. Federal international trade officials .
For most of the 70 plus years since the end of World War II, there was a political consensus in the United States that open trade and investment policies would provide the most benefit to the country and its people. The United States pursued those policies through multilateral and bilateral agreements that attempted to lock in open trade and investment regimes throughout the world. The idea that open trade and investment policies are beneficial to the United States and its citizens has been challenged on the political left and the right, including with calls to abandon the trade and investment agreements that have been the pillar of U.S. policy for 70 years, along with policies that limit access to the U.S. market for fairly-traded foreign-made goods.
In the meantime, globalization has continued to occur. The dynamics of the U.S. economy are continuing to evolve as a result of technological advances and continued globalization. In the manufacturing sector, inputs for finished products constitute over 60% of all U.S. imports. The internet and modern telecommunications allow services to be provided across national borders and services industries now comprise 70% of the U.S. economy.
Some have benefited greatly from globalization and trade agreements that lock in open markets and others have not. Economists have argued that openness still will provide the greatest benefit to the most people. However, the strong public support for political campaigns on both the left and right that decry open trade and investment policies makes clear that the post World War II political consensus on trade and investment no longer exists in its previous iteration.
The old policy was made from inside Washington DC, and based mainly on academic theories. It did not take into account the adverse effects that openness can have on working people throughout the country and “regular people” had very little, if any voice in how those policies were shaped.
Building a set of policies that can gain wide public support requires input from the people and communities those policies effect. There is a long history of surveys about American attitudes toward trade, which are helpful input. However, much deeper and more comprehensive input is required in order to shape a policy that will benefit Americans not just today, but for the rest of the century. And a continuous loop of engagement is needed to keep policies on track over the long term.