Why We Are Listening

Two years ago, when I was dispatched to go around the United States and talk to the public about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a free trade agreement among the United States, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Brunei, Singapore, Chile and Peru, it became apparent to me that most people, even those who followed trade issues relatively closely, were not aware of what was actually contained in the Agreement. People also expressed misgivings about the effects of the trade agreements that we already had in place and concern about their perceptions of what the TPP would bring.

Having spent the last 30 plus years working on international trade issues and negotiating trade agreements for every President from Ronald Reagan through Barak Obama, I believe the evidence shows that the open market policies that have been in place for the past 70 years have been largely beneficial to the United States. However, policies are not perfect and not every individual has benefited from open markets. Moreover, policy must take into account changing realities. The exponentially increasing pace of globalization, fueled by the rise of a ubiquitous internet, means that we have to think anew about how to ensure America’s competitiveness.

My travels around the United States showed me that there was a large gap between what people in the country thought and understood about international trade and globalization and what policy makers “inside the Beltway” in Washington DC thought and understood. Listening for America was formed to help bridge that gap.

International trade and globalization touches all of us whether we work at a company that sells products overseas, or simply shop at our local grocery store or department store. Our aim is to talk with people from all walks of life about their views on international trade; to understand how trade is having an impact on their lives, positively and negatively –to bring people’s voices more directly into policy. We trust that people are the best judges of what is in their own interest particularly once they have full information. To that end, we also aim to provide factual, impartial information about trade and globalization so that we can work together to have policies that will serve all of us best in the 21st century.

We are excited to be listening.

Catherine A. Novelli
Listening for America