OP-ED: When Did Trade Become a Dirty Word?

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
If “trade” is not a dirty word in this administration, why on earth is it not accommodated the investment in marketing and PR spent in the billions to sell two wars….at least only two wars we know about so far?   

We have noted in several pieces before that, in the  Bush, Jr. era alone, more than a BILLION DOLLARS  was spent with private PR firms to promote actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additional similar proposals have been pushed in the current administration  as well to conduct what is , according to facile lingo, public information efforts.  We have searched in vain to find even a tiny fraction of similar investment to help the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote specific trade opportunities so our people could compete with other nations for massive opportunities emerging especially in Asia.


The reality is there is no similar public relations effort to promote trade except what is done by the Commerce staff themselves in the International Trade Administration and some other miscellaneous departments charged with promoting American business abroad.


The fundamental questions are fairly simple:


1. why are there no White House backed outside professional public relations and marketing RFP’s intended to push opportunities for American  businesses in the same manner that have resulted in tens of billions for defense industries?


2.  if the White House can hold expensive dinners to help celebrate Ramadan, why can it not simply invest the same minimal funds to promote such international trade?


3.  why have not one single potential presidential candidate from the GOP even bothered to bring the subject up in the current political tours that fail as well to discuss the wars we cannot either win or simply negotiate to any other conclusion?These are just a few of the basic questions no one from Congress or the political circus tour are asking.


 Frankly, one has to wonder why the pros in the PR profession fail to promote the point.It is of course no secret that many American small and medium sized businesses are suffering in the current economic situation.  That suffering has resulted in massive unemployment that may well result in uprisings we have witnessed elsewhere in the world. 


Yet those on the campaign trails act as if the subject is not worth their time.Mostly the oratory of the GOP/Tea Party aspirants is aimed at destroying the present White House resident rather than reviewing the senseless losses, financially and in human lives, we are enduring in the wars mentioned earlier and essential parts of our daily lives.  As for the President himself, he is also spending most of his time talking about the important subject of jobs while failing to present a means to altering that particular problem.


 But he has hardly addressed the wars that must occupy the lives of the tens of thousands of families whose sons and daughters are out there in the battlefields while the pockets of  defense industries are filled with seemingly never ending contracts reported every day. 


Well, one political leader has indeed weighed in on the subject. That person is Utah Republican United States Senator  Orrin Hatch.  On August 24, Hatch heatedly blasted President Obama’s proposal to incorporate the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative into a larger trade agency.  In a letter to the president, the Senator wrote: “Mr. President, the solution to America’s trade competitiveness does not lie in creating a new ‘Department of Jobs’ or a new ‘Department of Competitiveness……..It lies in fighting to aggressively open foreign markets to U.S. exports.”  


Hatch also demanded that he be briefed on such far-reaching proposals and condemned what described as the president’s providing more information to media than to the Congress.   Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced that trade agencies including the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would be the “first focus” of a wider federal reorganization effort.


  However, despite such assertions, the International Trade Administration budget for operations and staff have been cut, and there is not one penny for the kind of private PR lavished on the Department of Defense.   The Utah Republican is also involved in what could be a tough fight to keep his senior seat in the Senate and is hardly likely to let up on his demands for more Administration transparency on this sensitive area, nor should he.     


Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including www.huntingtonnews.net
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