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Tuesday, Jun 22, 2004

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Democrats up the ante against outsourcing

Sridhar Krishnaswami

"It's time for Republicans to join with Democrats to enact a jobs plan that keeps American jobs in America and ensures that America remains the world's foremost land of opportunity," Mr Lampson remarked.

Washington , June 21

IN the midst of all the noise and attention on Iraq, the National Commission Staff reports and the so-called war against terrorism, Democrats are trying their best to keep an eye on an economic aspect - trade policy and outsourcing - that will have a bearing on this Presidential election of November 2. "It's a shame when the White House top economic advisor says outsourcing of American jobs is inevitable or even that it benefits our economy," said Mr Nick Lampson, Congressman from Texas in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Americans know that our country gains when we export American goods, not American jobs, he said.

In terms of legislation the Democrats this week introduced the "American Jobs Plan" that would eliminate all tax breaks that encourage firms to send jobs overseas, to provide a tax credit for creation of American jobs and to help prepare Americans for emerging technologies.

"It's time for Republicans to join with Democrats to enact a jobs plan that keeps American jobs in America and ensures that America remains the world's foremost land of opportunity," Mr Lampson remarked.

While on the surface the heated rhetoric over outsourcing may not have been witnessed in the very recent past, there are indications that the issue has not subsided by any stretch of imagination. The optimists for instance make the point that the outcry on outsourcing has calmed down only to be replaced with other worries, but the Democratic Party leadership is under tremendous pressure from the rank and file. And heading this list are the Union officials and persons who have lost jobs.

The Washington Times from Sante Fe, New Mexico, speaks of the kind of pressure coming on the Democratic Party Platform Committee that is seeking to fine tune the agenda on the trade and the economy fronts. The unions are pushing for a total rejection of all new free trade agreements and a moratorium on future agreements until the $550-billion trade deficit is eliminated. But moderates in the party are pushing for the larger picture.

In comments to the Platform Committee, Robert Reich, former Labour Secretary in the Clinton administration, is said to have noted: "Poor nations can become more prosperous only by exporting to rich nations. When we block their exports by erecting tariffs we prevent them from doing better".

It is not an issue of who is going to prevail but the extent to which outsourcing and trade issues are going to be prioritised in the Democratic agenda and in how close the Party platform reflects the vision of its soon-to-be nominee Senator John Kerry.

In fact, the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, who was the Chair of the 1992 Platform Committee that brought in the Clinton administration, has argued that the Platform for 2004 should be about Mr Kerry, not the constituency of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party should not be "protectionist", Mr Richardson has said even as it comes to grips with trade agreements and outsourcing. "We should be a party of fair trade that tries more in future trade agreements that we have more worker protection, more environmental protection...we should not look at retreating from the global economy, but we should be firm against outsourcing," Mr Richardson has said.

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