In defense of free trade – in Detroit, of all places

In the Detroit Free Press today, Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association, has a really hard-hitting op-ed pointing out how free trade can help the U.S. auto industry in “adapting and responding to the needs of their 21st Century customers.”

His article points to the very real economic benefits of free trade and refutes its critics in terms of jobs and employment that increased trade has helped create.

Free trade may be an easy target for the region’s woes, but American employers know that surviving and thriving in the 21st Century economy requires embracing innovation and new markets, not trying to turn back the quantifiable progress they have wrought.

The innovation boom we’ve witnessed over the past 15 years has million new jobs, a period during which unemployment helped create 25 has hovered at historic lows. Thanks to free trade, technology and new services that technology inspired, for the past two decades we have had the lowest unemployment rate of any developed country.

Shapiro notes some of the significant innovations that the U.S. auto industry has made, particularly in advanced electronics in their vehicles and urges Detroit automakers not to cling to the status quo but to “embrace innovation and change.”

These new technologies are exciting not only in how they transform the driving experience, but in what they represent: 20th Century industry powerhouses adapting and responding to the needs of their 21st Century customers by aggressively embracing innovation and change.

Here’s what one of the commenters on his op-ed said:

Mr. Shapiro has provided a reasoned and credible analysis of Detroit’s economic potential in a free-trade environment. I hope that key decision makers in the community will heed his advice.

Amen. With the U.S. — Korea Free Trade Agreement getting attacked by such anti-trade powerhouses as the United Auto Workers, let’s hope that Shapiro’s views will gain some ground.