March 17, 2004 — Outsourcing: The Wedge Issue
Even if we haven’t heard it come from Dubya’s mouth yet, Colin Powell made it clear in India yesterday: the Republicans support outsourcing; the democrats don’t.
During a conversation with Indian students, Powell called the outsourcing of jobs a long-term “plus” for the economy. Kerry’s camp responded immediately, saying that Powell “failed to fight for American workers.”
Posted by Sandeep Sood – Indian BLOG site: http://www.mahootmedia.com/mt/archives/000123.php
In discussions with Indian leaders and college students, Mr. Powell found that the issue of the transfer of American jobs to India by leading technology companies was as emotional in India as in the United States.
But whereas American politicians have deplored the loss of such jobs, it was clear that the anxiety in India focuses on threats by some members of Congress to try to stop the transfer by legislation.
Responding to a questioner in a session with students who asked if he supported or opposed outsourcing, Mr. Powell said: “Outsourcing is a natural effect of the global economic system and the rise of the Internet and broadband communications. You’re not going to eliminate outsourcing; but, at the same time, when you outsource jobs it becomes a political issue in anybody’s country.”
Mr. Powell told the students what he had said to reporters earlier in the day after a meeting with Foreign Minister Yaswant Sinha: an appropriate American response to outsourcing was to press India to open up to imports of American investments, goods and services.
He said one purpose of his trip was to explain to India that because outsourcing had created a political problem in the United States, India could help by lowering its trade barriers. He said he was making that request, not as a condition for the United States allowing outsourcing to continue, but because it was in India’s interest to be more open.
In February, Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, stirred a political outcry when he called the outsourcing of jobs a long-term “plus” for the economy. While Mr. Powell said Tuesday that “it is the reality of 21st century economics that these kinds of dislocations will take place,” he was quick to add that the Bush administration would work to train people for new jobs.
In Washington, the White House endorsed Mr. Powell’s comments.
“The secretary made clear in his remarks that we are concerned when Americans lose jobs, and we are focused on creating jobs for American workers, and the best way to do that is to open markets around the world, including in India,” said Claire Buchan, a spokeswoman for the White House.
But David Wade, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Mr. Powell’s comments demonstrated how the Bush administration has “failed to fight for American workers.”
The questions put to Mr. Powell on Tuesday showed the high degree of interest in American affairs by his Indian audience.
Mr. Powell had a full day of activities, meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other Indian leaders and then attending a dinner at the residence of the United States ambassador.
He has repeatedly joined with Indian leaders to proclaim that the current period is seeing their countries’ closest friendship in many years.
Two years ago, Mr. Powell visited at a time of rising tensions with Pakistan. Now, despite the American embrace of the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Indian leaders have not voiced loud objections to such American policies as overlooking Pakistan’s past proliferation of nuclear technology.
Suspicions of Pakistan are never far below the surface in India, however, and Mr. Powell was repeatedly asked by reporters and students why the United States was being lenient with Pakistan despite its detrimental activities. “Pakistan is a friend of the United States, just as India is a friend of the United States,” Mr. Powell told the students. He said, however, that Pakistan’s allowing nuclear materials and knowledge to leak to other countries was “reprehensible,” and that he would take up this matter with General Musharraf later this week.
Financial issues dominated the talks, American and Indian officials said. The United States has intensified its drive to open Indian markets and wants to sell advanced civilian space and nuclear technology, but only if India imposes controls so that the technology is not passed on to other countries.
Responding to questions, Mr. Powell defended the war in Iraq and American foreign policy generally, especially against suggestions that the United States used force in its own interests whenever it wanted.
“We don’t go around invading everybody,” he told the students. “Iraq was an entirely different subject.” Later he added: “Not every answer is use of military force — quite the contrary with respect to the U.S. policy.”