Eskew, UPS chairman, says economic isolationism no option
A 'small but vocal antiglobalization movement' is seriously undermining 'American business interests and the interests of everyone who believes in free and fair trade,' said Mike Eskew, chairman and chief executive officer of UPS in a speech Wednesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
Eskew noted that President Franklin Roosevelt fought 'a war that had its roots in no small part in isolation. There are some striking parallels to the situation we find ourselves in today,' when 'a retreat toward economic isolation would be disastrous for American business, workers, and the nation's economy.'
Economic isolation is proving increasingly attractive to many Americans 'because we in the business community have not done a very good job of framing and promoting the benefits of international trade. The free trade message fails to resonate with so many because it's not widely understood,' he said. 'We need to make global trade literacy a priority in our nation. The most obvious place to begin is within our own companies.'
'We can recite trade facts until we're blue in the face. If you have just lost a job, those facts mean nothing,' he noted. A quarter-century ago, 'a lot of people were afraid that the U.S. was going to lose all of its good jobs and economic clout to Japan. Even greater numbers were worried about having their careers rendered obsolete by the encroachment of technology. That mirrors the fears we see today — only the names have changed,' Eskew said.
'Instead of Japan, it's India and China. Instead of technology, it's globalization.' Yet in the process of improving technology, 'we replaced 44 million antiquated jobs with 73 million new jobs,' he said. In the same way, globalization would create, not drain away, millions of jobs.
Fighting antiglobalization is made harder, Eskew said, by 'the growing wave of anti-Americanism abroad, the roots of which do not rest solely with military actions taken in Iraq. Many in the world have been upset for quite some time over what they perceive as an invasion of American culture, values and bad corporate behavior. The trend is not limited to Western Europe and the Middle East,' he said.
One remedy is for companies to recognize that 'in foreign affairs, corporate diplomacy is as important as political democracy,' he said.